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The most (and least) satisfied workers

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.

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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 percent of physicians were considered obese, compared to the more than 37 percent 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 percent) reported having health insurance, while just 77 percent 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.

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The most satisfied professions.

1. Physician

· Job types: Internist, obstetrician, anesthesiologist

· Well-being index score: 78.0

· Obesity: 86.0 percent

· Percent with health insurance: 96.7 percent

· Percent satisfied with job: 95.5 percent

Physicians ranked higher than every other profession due to top marks in life evaluation, healthy behaviors, emotional and physical health, as well as access to basic needs. Physicians were by far the most likely professionals to be described by Gallup as “thriving." They were also less likely than any other workers to have felt sad or angry in the past day, and the most likely to have the energy needed to be productive. Physicians are often exceptionally well-paid. According to the Medical Group Management Association, primary care physicians earned a median annual compensation of more than $200,000, while for those with medical specialties the figure exceeded $350,000.

2. Teacher

· Job types: High school, special education teacher, teacher assistants

· Well-being index score: 73.6

· Obesity: 79.4 percent

· Percent with health insurance: 95.7 percent

· Percent satisfied with job: 91.1 percent

Teachers had higher self-evaluations of their lives than workers in every other occupation beside physicians. Nearly 70 percent of teachers qualifying as “thriving” based on their current and expected future quality of life. Teachers were also the most likely workers to report they smiled or laughed, experienced enjoyment or experienced happiness within the past day. Teachers surveyed also regularly practiced healthy behaviors. More than 64 percent ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days a week, second only to nurses, and just under 6 percent smoked, less than only physicians. According to the BLS, median pay for “education, training and library occupations" was just over $45,000 in 2010 -- higher than the median for all occupations.

3. Business Owners

· Job types: Contractor, store owner, entrepreneur

· Well-being index score: 73.4

· Obesity: 79.5 percent

· Percent with health insurance: 77.6 percent

· Percent satisfied with job: 93.3 percent

Business owners are more likely than any other class of workers to rate their work environment highly. Over 93 percent of business owners said they were satisfied with their job or the work they did, higher than any occupation except for physician. Additionally, nearly 89 percent of business owners reported their work environment was trusting and open -- by far the highest of any type of worker. According to the BLS, as of February there were almost 14.5 million self-employed workers, down from nearly 15.9 million five years prior.

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The Least Satisfied Professions

1. Transportation

· Job types: Bus drivers, flight attendants, air traffic controllers

· Well-being index score: 63.3

· Obesity: 62.9 percent

· Percent with health insurance: 77.0 percent

· Percent satisfied with job: 84.8 percent

Just over 80 percent of transportation employees believe that they use their strengths at work, lower than any other occupation except for clerical workers. Many transportation jobs, such as bus drivers and cab drivers, pay low wages, possibly contributing to a lower sense of well-being. Other positions in the industry pay quite well. For instance, air traffic controllers had a median pay of $108,040 in 2010, a pretty good haul considering that the position only needs an associate’s degree. However, the position involves a high amount of stress due to the intense concentration necessary and the nights and weekends involved.

2. Manufacturing or Production

· Job types: Assembly line workers, bakers, machine workers

· Well-being index score: 64.3

· Obesity: 70.4 percent

· Percent with health insurance: 78.8 percent

· Percent satisfied with job: 83.4 percent

Manufacturing and production employees -- such as factory workers, food preparation workers, garment or furniture manufacturers -- had lower ratings of their work environments than nearly all other occupations. They were less likely to feel satisfied in their job and among the least likely to be satisfied with how their supervisor treated them. Many of these jobs are low wages jobs. The median annual salaries of bakers and food processors were $23,450 and $23,950, respectively in 2010. The median 2010 salaries of assemblers, metal and plastic machine workers, and printing workers were all below the national median for all occupations. Manufacturing and production employees also ranked as the nation’s worst for healthy behavior due to high rates of smoking and low rates of exercise.

3. Installation or Repair

· Job types: Mechanic, linesman, maintenance worker

· Well-being index score: 64.8

· Obesity: 70.7 percent

· Percent with health insurance: 75.9 percent

· Percent satisfied with job: 87.2 percent

Installation and repair workers, such as linesmen, mechanics, as well as maintenance and repair workers, were less likely to practice healthy behaviors. They were among the least likely employees to regularly eat fruits and vegetables, and among the most likely to smoke. Additionally, these workers also provided lower self-evaluations of their current lives than all occupations except for transportation workers. Many of these positions require no more than a high school diploma alongside moderate or long-term on-the-job training and do not pay considerably more than the median pay of $33,840 for all occupations.

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