The Most (and Least) Satisfied Professions

Michael B. Sauter, Alexander, Samuel

Where you work can be an excellent predictor of your health, happiness and stress levels. A recent Gallup poll demonstrates the extent to which workers in different professions tend to have similar levels of overall well-being. According to the 2012 results of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, physicians had the highest level of well-being of any major profession, while transportation workers, including drivers, pilots, flight attendants and air traffic controllers, had the lowest.

Gallup-Healthways asked more than 170,000 workers a series of 55 questions covering physical and emotional health, life evaluation and workplace environment. Gallup assigned a score between 0 to 100 to each of 14 major professional categories, with 100 representing ideal well-being. Based on Gallup’s score, these are the most and least satisfied professions.

Click here to see the most (and least) satisfied professions

While each of the 55 questions had some impact on the profession’s final well-being score, certain measures highly contribute to workers’ health. These include such factors as getting regular exercise, not smoking, learning something new every day, and being treated well by their employers, to name a few.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, explained that the professions with high levels of obesity and related conditions like heart attacks and chronic physical pain were more likely to have much lower overall well-being. Just 14% of physicians were considered obese, compared to the more than 37% of transportation workers.

The majority of health insurance coverage in the United States is provided by employers, resulting in some dramatic differences between professions. Virtually all physicians surveyed (97%) reported having health insurance, while just 77% of transportation workers could say the same. Witters explained that health insurance, besides making people more likely to receive treatment they need, “has a lot of influence on the proactive nature of which people tend to their health.”

Conventional wisdom suggests that working long hours has long-term negative mental and physical health effects. In fact, Witters explained, the data do not support this. While working long hours can lead to stress, many of the jobs with the longest hours, including doctors, professionals such as lawyers and engineers, and business owners, have among the highest levels of well-being. One reason for this, Witters noted, is that long hours translate to higher income in these positions. Higher income, he explained, has a very high correlation with well-being, as it gives people access to basic needs.

One group that may surprise some with its high level of well-being is teachers, which ranked only behind physicians for well-being. “Teachers are a lot higher than a lot of people would guess. They are good eaters, their obesity, while too high, is well below the national average, and they have good workplace well-being. They get to use their strengths a lot.”

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 14 professional categories surveyed by the Gallup-Healthway’s Well-Being Index in 2012. On top of calculating an overall national level of well-being, the index also calculates the well-being for each profession, assigning scores from 0 to 100, with 100 representing ideal well-being. In generating the rank, Gallup combined six separate indices, measuring access to basic needs, healthy behavior, work environment, physical health, life evaluation and optimism, and emotional health. In addition to the index, we considered income data and job descriptions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

These are the most and least satisfied professions.