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Stanford professor: “The workplace is killing people and nobody cares”

From the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours, the modern workplace is taking its toll on all of us.

BY DYLAN WALSH 7 MINUTE READ

Jeffrey Pfeffer has an ambitious aspiration for the book he released earlier this year. “I want this to be the Silent Spring of workplace health,” says Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “We are harming both company performance and individual well-being, and this needs to be the clarion call for us to stop. There is too much damage being done.”

Dying for a Paycheck, published by HarperBusiness, maps a range of ills in the modern workplace–from the disappearance of good health insurance to the psychological effects of long hours and work-family conflict–and how these are killing people.

Here’s a fascinating Q&A with the author:

I was struck by the story of Robert Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, standing in front of 1,000 other CEOs and saying, “You are the cause of the healthcare crisis.”

Jeffrey Pfeffer: It’s true. He takes three points and puts them together. The first point, which is consistent with data reported by the World Economic Forum and other sources, is that an enormous percentage of the health care cost burden in the developed world, and in particular in the U.S., comes from chronic disease–things like diabetes and cardiovascular and circulatory disease. You begin with that premise: A large fraction–some estimates are 75 percent–of the disease burden in the U.S. is from chronic diseases.

Second, there is a tremendous amount of epidemiological literature that suggests that diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome—and many health-relevant individual behaviors such as overeating and underexercising and drug and alcohol abuse–come from stress.

And third, there is a large amount of data that suggests the biggest source of stress is the workplace. So that’s how Chapman can stand up and make the statement that CEOs are the cause of the health care crisis: You are the source of stress, stress causes chronic disease, and chronic disease is the biggest component of our ongoing and enormous health care costs.

Has this connection always been there, or has there been an evolution in workplace culture that got us to this point?

JP: I think the connection as just described has always been there, because the physiology and etiology of disease have not really changed. But I would say that with all the evidence I’ve encountered–and it’s not perfect evidence–I’ve seen nothing inconsistent with the statement that the workplace has generally gotten worse.

Job engagement, according to Gallup, is low. Distrust in management, according to the Edelman trust index, is high. Job satisfaction, according to the Conference Board, is low and has been in continual decline. The gig economy is growing, economic insecurity is growing, and wage growth overall has stagnated. Fewer people are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance than in the past, according to Kaiser Foundation surveys. And a strikingly high percentage of people, even those covered by insurance, say they forgo treatment and medications because of cost issues.

I look out at the workplace and I see stress, layoffs, longer hours, work-family conflict, enormous amounts of economic insecurity. I see a workplace that has become shockingly inhumane.

You reference professor Nuria Chinchilla [of IESE Business School], who describes this as social pollution. What does that mean?

JP: She has said that the real inconvenient truth is not just that there is environmental pollution, which there certainly is, but that there is also social pollution. The work hours that companies are demanding of their employees are causing the breakup of marriages, burdens on raising children, and general disruption to family life. And the family unit is an important source of social support.

You can see this in stories from my book–the GE guy who’s on the road all the time and never sees his kids until he finally decides to quit. So she coined the term “social pollution,” and I think it’s a wonderful term.

Companies should care about what they are doing to the social environment, not just the physical environment.

You draw that out in the book: a focus on corporate sustainability that ignores social damages.

JP: No one would ever stand up–or at least not many people–and say, “We clear-cut this forest” or “We took the top of this mountain off for coal, and aren’t we proud.” But 3G Capital will proudly stand up and say, “We’ve laid off one-fifth of the workforce. Let’s pat ourselves on the back!”

And we tolerate it. The point I make several times is that there are behaviors with respect to the physical environment that we have decided are impermissible. You are no longer permitted to burn whatever you want and throw it into the air, or dump whatever chemical you want into the water. Companies have accepted this and now parade their environmental bona fides.

Meanwhile, these companies are engaging in all kinds of things that are harming the human beings who work for them. These are things they should report on, and these are things that we should stop tolerating.

Why is this normal?

JP: I can speculate. Maybe it’s because we see the polar bears and the trees and the physical environment as not being agentic, in the sense of not being able to take action to defend themselves. And maybe we see human beings as being more agentic and responsible for their own well-being.

When I talk about this book, I’ve had plenty of people say to me that if someone doesn’t like where he’s working, then he needs to go find another job. Which is easier said than done.

BARRIERS TO CHANGE

You talk about a number of barriers to moving, and one of those is individual psychology. What is that psychological dynamic?

JP: There are many issues. One simple one that we should never overlook is sheer exhaustion. Finding a job is itself a job. If you are physically or psychologically drained by workplace stress, then you’re not going to have the capacity to go out and look for another job.

Companies also play to our egos. They say, “What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you good enough? We’re a special organization. We’re changing the world and only certain people are going to be up for the task.” Who wants to admit they’re not good enough?

And we are influenced by what we see our peers doing. I’ve had people say to me: “I look around and all my colleagues are working themselves to death. What makes me think I’m so special that I don’t have to?” We have come to normalize the unacceptable. It’s hideous.

You make clear that yoga classes and nap rooms won’t fix this. What are some of ways this culture might change?

JP: I don’t think it’s going to. What changed environmental pollution? People decided that we were not going to permit companies to create a world with polluted air and fouled water.

I cannot see that happening with respect to the workplace in the current political environment and the push for deregulation. And, for reasons I’ve already alluded to, I think people don’t necessarily see, recognize, or appreciate what’s going on in the workplace. To the extent that they do, they think it’s inevitable–everyone has to be working long hours and be miserable.

You know what might change this? I gave a talk on this to Stanford alumni and afterward a lawyer came up to me and said there are going to be lawsuits.

On what grounds?

JP: In a way parallel to the lawsuits that were filed against tobacco companies. Some companies are killing their workers. People have been harmed. If I had to bet on how this will change, some company is going to get sued, some lawyer will win an enormous award, and that will open the floodgates.

If you meet with executives, can you make a competitive strategy argument to not treat employees this way?

JP: Of course.

Is that effective?

JP: Depends on whether they have any sense.

There’s data on this–there shouldn’t need to be, but there is–that suggests that when people come to work sick, they’re not as productive. Companies have problems with presenteeism–people physically on the job but not really paying attention to what they are doing–with lost workdays from psychological stress and illness, with high health care costs. Seven percent of people in one survey were hospitalized–hospitalized!–because of workplace stress; 50% had missed time at work because of stress. People are quitting their jobs because of stress. The business costs are enormous.

Did you change your mind about anything when working on the book?

JP: Yes, I changed my mind in the following way: It’s worse than I thought. And obviously these workforce things that cause ill health do not fall equally on the population. If you are less educated, you have more economic insecurity, the likelihood of receiving benefits is lower, your ability to control your work hours and your job are worse, and so health outcomes are worse. But I didn’t think it would be as bad for as many people.

I didn’t think the workplace would be the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. And, by the way, when I talk to HR people, they say the numbers we have are certainly wrong: They are too low.

I want to wake people up. This is a serious issue that has serious consequences for corporate performance and for people’s well-being. We should care about people’s psychological and physical health, not just about profits.

This article was originally published on Stanford Business and is republished here with permission.

Can Food Cure Depression?

Foods To Fight Depression

by: Karen Pallarito And Amanda Macmillan

A symphony of factors, including genetics, hormones, illness, and stress, can trigger depression. Now, scientists say your daily diet may also influence your risk for this mental illness. A growing number of studies—including the first randomized controlled trial on this subject—suggest that food choices "may play a role in the treatment and prevention of brain-based disorders, particularly depression," according to a new reportpublished in the World Journal of Psychology.

The new report includes a review of 34 essential nutrients, 12 of which were identified as relating to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders: folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc. But rather than focus on single foods or nutrients as a panacea against depression, researchers are looking at the big picture, explains Felice Jacka, PhD, an Australian food-and-mood researcher and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research.

“We eat diets that comprise countless compounds that interact in highly complex ways,” says Jacka, who published the first dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression last year in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. (Her work is heavily cited in the new report, as well.)

That's why the authors of the new study also examined a subset of foods rich in those 12 nutrients, ranking them by nutrient density to give them each an "Antidepressant Food Score." And as it turns out, many of the same foods recommended for physical health are also good for mental health.

We took a closer look at the foods singled out in the new report and also asked food and mood researchers for their top dietary picks. While they won't replace depression treatment–like therapy, medication, or both–these are the key elements of a healthy, mood-boosting diet.

RELATED: 10 Signs You Should See a Doctor for Depression

Brain-healthy fats

Fat is back, and with good reason. Healthy fats like those found in nuts and fish are crucial for brain health and may play a role in fighting depression.

In a large review of studies, people eating the most fish had a 17% lower risk of depression than those eating the least fish. Another review found that omega-3 fish oil supplements boosted the effects of medication in people with depression, compared with taking a placebo.

“Omega-3 fatty acids from seafood and monounsaturated fats from nuts, avocados, and olive oil appear to be particularly important and beneficial to our mental and brain health,” Jacka says.

A Mediterranean-style diet

Improve your overall diet and you could reduce your depression. That’s the key takeaway from a first-of-its-kind trial examining the effects of a modified Mediterranean diet on major depression.

The link between diet and depression is complex, involving several biological pathways and processes, each of which is “under the influence of our gut microbiota,” says Jacka, the study’s lead author.

For the study, one group upped their intake of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, legumes, fish, lean red meats, olive oil, and nuts, while cutting back on sweets, refined cereals, fried food, processed meats, and sugary drinks. A control group received only social support for their depression. After three months, a third of those in the Mediterranean diet group reported significant symptom relief, compared with just 8% of the control group.

Fermented foods

Who would have thought a side of kimchi could be a boon to mental health?

Animal studies suggest that certain live bacteria and yeasts, known as probiotics, may be helpful in fighting depression and anxiety. Fermented foods like kimchi and kefir are chock full of healthy bacteria thought to soothe gut inflammation.

As it turns out, there’s a link between digestive and brain health. Scientists call it the “gut-brain axis.” Important brain chemicals, including the mood-boosting hormone serotonin, are produced in the gut. So, the theory goes, without a sufficient supply of healthy gut bacteria, your mood can suffer.

Leafy greens

In the new Antidepressant Food rankings, leafy greens like watercress, spinach, mustard greens, lettuce, and swiss chard got top billing. These foods earned the highest scores out of all animal- and plant-based foods, suggesting that they're an important part of preventing or treating depressive disorders. 

These veggies are rich in folate, a water-soluble B vitamin. Low folate levels have been linked to depressive symptoms and poor response to antidepressants.

Plus, the vitamin may affect mood-related chemicals in the brain. “Serotonin levels have been shown to rise with foods rich in folate,” noted Torey Armul, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Some people with depression have reduced transmission of this important chemical messenger.

Dark chocolate

Say yes to dark chocolate! Cocoa beans contain flavonoids, plant-based nutrients that are powerful antioxidants and can improve mood.

Other foods rich in these helpful plant compounds include tea, apples, citrus, blueberries, and onions.

Sweet potatoes

Carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes get their orange hue from carotenoids, a type of antioxidant that may be helpful in warding off depression.

Researchers who followed a group of older men and women for six years found that low blood levels of carotenoids were associated with depressive symptoms.

A separate study of men and women in the U.S. revealed an association between greater blood levels of carotenoids and optimism. Researchers weren’t able to tease out cause and effect. But they suspect that optimistic people eat healthier diets and people in better physical health are more optimistic.

Turkey

Turkey contains tryptophan, the amino acid Thanksgiving Day revelers love to blame for inducing their post-feast slumber. While turkey probably won’t really make you sleepy, tryptophan may be helpful in treating mental health problems like depression. The reason? Your body uses tryptophan to make the mood-elevating hormone serotonin.

Other food sources of tryptophan include eggs, seeds, fish, and dairy. Taking tryptophan supplements may also benefit people with depression. However, if you’re on antidepressants, talk to a doctor before taking supplements. The combination could cause serious side effects.

Bananas

Some studies suggest a link between depressed mood and low levels of tyrosine, an amino acid that produces the so-called “happy hormone” dopamine. Dopamine controls your brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

It remains unclear whether eating tyrosine-rich foods will alleviate depression, but all four basic food groups–meat, dairy, grains, and fruits and veggies–contain picks that are naturally high in the amino acid. Some of the best healthy sources include bananas, avocados, and almonds.

Salmon

Salmon, tuna, and herring are all on the short list of foods naturally containing vitamin D. Unsurprisingly, they also made the new list of Antidepressant Food rankings.

While studies suggest a link between low levels of vitamin D and depression, what’s unclear is whether it is a cause of depressive symptoms or a consequence of being depressed, says the Vitamin D Council. Some scientists suspect that vitamin D may play a role in converting tryptophan into the mood-elevating hormone serotonin.

Sadly, the new World Journal of Psychiatry report notes, Americans aren't eating as much of these fish—or any fish in general—as they should. "Average annual seafood intake for Americans is 14.6 pounds," the authors note, "and the USDA estimates that 80 to 90% of the population fails to meet the recommendation of two servings of seafood per week."

Be careful if you get your D from dietary supplements. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning too much is potentially toxic to the body. (The recommended dietary allowance is 600 IUs per day for adults 70 and younger and 800 IUs for older folks.)

Oysters

Oysters are an excellent source of zinc, an essential mineral for proper immune system function. And when it comes to animal sources of feel-good nutrients, these bivalves got the top score in the new Antidepressant Food rankings. Clams, mussels, and other seafood–as well as organ meat from poultry and mammals–also ranked highly. 

“There’s some research that links increased zinc intake to improved mood,” Armul says. What’s not clear is whether low zinc levels lead to depression or whether depression causes zinc deficiency. Other zinc sources include beef, lobster, dark-meat chicken, oatmeal, and almonds.

Article from: https://www.health.com/depression/best-foods-depression

R. Kelly Childhood Abuse

R. Kelly is a household name in many black homes. As a child, I grew up singing “Bump and Grind” before I had begun exploring my own sexuality. My own African-American grandmother had “I Believe I Can Fly” at her funeral. Yet, there also lingered rumors of him having sex with underage girls.

As Lifetime releases the docudrama “Surviving R. Kelly”, we learn not only about his abuse of women and teenage girls sexually, physically, mentally, and emotionally, but something more. He details his own history of being abused sexually starting at 7 years old.

Adding to the disturbing narrative, his brother also states that he was molested as a boy. R. Kelly and his brother are obviously not alone. In the black community, we publicly discuss the impacts of racism on our mental and emotional lives. It is something being done to us racist whites and those outside of our community. However, the sexual abuse we inflict upon one another is swept under the rug.

The #MeToo movement has been a tipping point for many women of all colors to air their tales of sexual abuse, molestation, and harassment. Black men have no such movement. However, you also have stories of pain and hurt related to sexual trauma.

Psychotherapy is a forum to discuss how your prior sexual abuse affects you in negative ways today. Perhaps you are slow to trust others, emotionally distraught over minor incidences, or lack self-esteem. R. Kelly’s fetish for underage teenage girls maybe a result of his own abuse. Had he sought treatment for his desires, he may have alleviated them, or decided to stop abusing the women lovers in his life.

You're welcome to call us for an initial consultation to explore how your own childhood sexual abuse is negatively impacting your life, and begin healing. There is help.

Low Sex Drive?

If you are experiencing low sex drive, you’re not alone. The stress you may be experiencing due to your work environment, a difficult marriage, family conflicts, or the reemergence of childhood trauma may effect your sexual drive, also known as libido. These concerns we can talk about in psychotherapy.

However if you are experiencing the loss of libido due to low testosterone, you should speak to your primary care physician about remedies. The article below provides helpful information on decreased libido due to low testosterone and what you can do about it.

https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/conditions-that-cause-low-libido#medications

Jewel Love