How likely are you to die on the job? Since we’re entering Halloween week, and the streets are decorated with gravestones and ghosts, naturally, we decided to take a look at the jobs that are most likely to kill you.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), your risk of heart disease varies according to what you do for a living. Their research shows that people in the service industry and blue-collar jobs have a greater risk for heart disease and stroke than workers in other professions.

For the study, researchers at the CDC analyzed national health surveys to compare the rate of heart disease and stroke among adults younger than 55 by their career paths.

People working in wholesale have the highest risk, while people in working in finance and insurance had the lowest rate of heart disease.

Occupations with the highest rate of heart disease:

  • Wholesale
  • Public Administration
  • Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services
  • Transportation and Warehousing
  • Utilities

Occupations with the lowest rate of heart disease:

  • Finance and Insurance
  • Information
  • Education
  • Professional, Science, and technology
  • Arts, Entertainment, Recreation

Those are the raw numbers by sector, but of course your risk of heart disease also varies based on your age and gender. When the CDC researchers factored those into their data, they found the rate of heart disease and stroke was for workers in two industries: Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services (the people who work in business support services and security services, as well as landscaping and waste management), and Accommodation and Food Service (people who work in hospitality, traveler and accommodation, restaurants and bars).

On the bright side, a poll by Ipsos showed that more than half of Canadians over 40 (51%) say that they are prepared in the event of a heart attack. (I am not one of the 51%, I have no idea what such preparation would entail.)

And even if your job isn’t one of the most likely to cause heart disease, it could still be hazardous to your health. According to the Canadian Labour Congress, over 1,000 Canadians die on the job every year.

The most dangerous occupations in Canada are also tend to be the blue collar jobs.

This is particularly bad news for Transportation workers, as they make the both the list of most on-the-job fatalities as well as the occupations at the highest risk of heart disease. Similarly, Finance and Insurance workers have the least chance of dying on the job as well as the lowest risk of heart attack and stroke.

Canada’s deadliest jobs:

  • Fisheries workers
  • Mining and natural resources
  • Loggers and lumberjacks
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation and storage

Just getting to work is killing the rest of us too. According to a (US) study by, nearly 100,000 heart attacks a year are attributed to traffic. They found that shortening your commute by 20 minutes a day can reduce your stress-level by 20% and your risk of heart attack by a whopping 300%. (Long commutes also lead to higher levels of obesity and stress, which are also killing us.)

Death by the numbers:

Men are 30 times more likely to die on the job than women. Newfoundland is the deadliest province, but the Territories have four times the fatalities as the national average of the provinces.

Canada has the fifth highest rate of on-the-job fatalities of the OECD countries, behind only Korea, Turkey, Mexico, and Portugal. (The UK has the lowest.) *

So, work is murder. Your job is killing you. Is there an upside, a silver lining?

Actually there is. In The Longevity Project, Dr. Howard Friedman and Dr. Leslie Martin use statistical data to track study participants over 80 years to determine what really affects their health and lifespan.

The results show that it’s not actually stress-free, happy people who live the longest; it’s those who are the most persistent. People who have more meaningful jobs, who believe in their work and are determined to accomplish more live longer, healthier lives. This had a bigger impact on their longevity than even eating habits or exercise.

Also, in the CDC study of heart attack and stroke by profession – it turned out that unemployed people had a 32% higher rate of heart disease than did people of any one occupation.

So, while it looks like work may be killing us, it’s still the only way to live.

* These numbers are about nine years old – I wasn’t able to find an updated version of this report: Centre for the Study of Living Standards (CLSC) – Five Death’s a Day: Workplace Fatalities in Canada [PDF]
Peter Harris

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