When people like their jobs, they enjoy the work, they’re more motivated and they perform better. Better performance gets noticed and leads to new opportunities and greater compensation. Liking what you do can be the start of an upward spiral of success.

If you need even more motivation to seek out work that you find enjoyable, then consider this: the alternative can be deadly. Several studies have concluded that it is in fact possible to be bored to death.

That boredom could be deadly is something that I have suspected at several occasions in my life, such as when I worked on an assembly line at a glove factory on the night shift during university, when I was waiting for my bones to heal (I was laid up one summer with so many injuries I could do nothing but watch the weeks go by), or when my wife dragged me to the theatre to see Sex in the City II.

Well now it’s confirmed. New research out of the University of Central Lancashire in England found that about a quarter of workers are “bored most of the time” at their jobs. The chronic boredom that these people suffer results in increased stress, frequent absences and a strong desire to quit their jobs. This obviously takes a serious toll on how well they perform at work, but the chronically under-stimulated are also more likely to find risky ways to alleviate their boredom.

“At work people vandalize, steal, and sabotage just because they are bored and looking for extra stimulation,” said study author Dr. Sandi Mann.

The apathetic workers also develop physically unhealthy habits like drinking copious amounts of coffee and eating more chocolate to get through the day. They also are much more likely to drink alcohol at the end of the day.

An earlier study concluded that people who experienced “high levels” of boredom had twice the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke than those who found their lives more enjoyable.

This study by researchers at University College London analyzed the responses of 7,524 civil servants, and it found that people who were bored were not only more likely to drink but to smoke as well. It also found that women were more than twice as likely to suffer from boredom as men.

Bored workers are less productive, they’re more likely to quit, they’re less healthy and they may die. “So managers should look at ways of reducing sources of workplace boredom and at encouraging healthier ways of coping,” suggests Dr. Mann.

So if you find yourself incredibly bored in your job day after day, please look for something else to do right away, because left untreated, it turns out that terrible boredom can turn into terminal boredom.


Peter Harris on Twitter