Hospitality

Scientists Say It’s More Stressful to Be a Waiter Than a Neurosurgeon

A new study has found that demanding jobs offering employees little control—step forward weekend brunch server on a 12 hour split-shift—are among the most detrimental to mental and physical health.

Phoebe Hurst

Phoebe Hurst

It's no secret that waiting tables is a tough job. There are the unsociable working hours, the negligible pay, the bus rides home spent massaging exhausted feet, and in serious cases, the unwanted advances of drunk patrons.

We all know this and yet as a paying restaurant customer, who hasn't felt at least a little tetchy when the waitress brings you the wrong drink order for the third time or the waiter seems incapable of remembering the fact that you asked for no coriander under any circumstances at all?

Well, you're about to regret those hangry judgements because it seems waiters and waitresses deserve even more of our respect than previously thought.

A new study has found that demanding jobs offering employees little control—step forward weekend brunch server on a 12 hour split-shift—are among the most detrimental to mental and physical health.

Now who wants to make a pass-agg remark about how long it takes to bring over a bread basket?

Carried out by scientists at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, the research saw scientists analyse the data of over 138,700 participants from six previous studies on job-related health.

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Using this information, they classified jobs into four groups based on control and how psychologically demanding the role. Low demand and low control jobs such as manual labour were labelled "Passive," jobs with high control like architects and scientists were "Low Stress," and jobs with both high demand and high control (think teachers or doctors) were "Active."

The category labelled "High Stress" encompassed jobs that were demanding but with low levels of control. Yep, our old friend the waitstaff gig.

Scientists found that waiters and waitresses have a 22 percent higher risk of stroke on average than those with low stress jobs. The figure jumps to 33 percent for women when the data is split by gender.

The research explained that while those holding down high-flyin' jobs like architects and scientists may seem like prime candidates for rocketing blood pressure, work-related stress is largely dependent on whether or not you have a job that allows you to feel in control and respected. A neurosurgeon may be mentally drained after a day at work but we're betting they feel more valued than the waitress who just got covered in mashed potato by a customer's darling child (and no tip). For this reason, those in low demand/high control jobs were found to have no increased risk of stroke or heart problems.

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As well as enduring disruptive shift patterns often linked to poor health, scientists behind the study noted that waiters and waitresses may also be pushed to drink and smoke—not great activities for avoiding heart problems, or indeed mental health issues.

Dingli Xu at the Southern Medical University said: "Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results. It's possible that high stress jobs lead to more unhealthy behaviours, such as poor eating habits, smoking, and a lack of exercise."

It's something to think about if you ever find yourself this close to snapping at the server for forgetting the extra sauce on your eggs Benedict.