The study, conducted by the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, analyzed responses from 2,592 adults who responded to a national telephone survey. The initial survey was conducted in 1995, with a follow-up in 1998. Participants were asked about general health and physical functioning, how they spent their daily time and whether their work provided them with the opportunity to learn new things.
"The most important finding is that creative activity helps people stay healthy," said sociology professor John Mirowsky, the study’s lead author. "Creative activity is non-routine, enjoyable and provides opportunity for learning and for solving problems. People who do that kind of work, whether paid or not, feel healthier and have fewer physical problems."
While the study did not address specific job positions, Mirowsky said professions such as assembly line jobs were generally considered to lack creative involvement, while high-status jobs that come with managerial authority or complex work can provide more of a creative outlet.
"People with a wide variety of jobs manage to find ways to make them creative," Mirowsky said. "And, people with higher levels of education tend to have more creative activities in their lives, paid or not."
The study also revealed that any employment – regardless of the work’s potential for creativity – promotes better health in general. Creative work, however, seems to give workers additional health benefits.
"The health advantage of being somewhat above average in creative work (in the 60th percentile) versus being somewhat below average (in the 40th percentile) is equal to being 6.7 years younger," Mirowsky said.
Another recent study, conducted by the Wake Forest School of Medicine, shows that flexible work schedules may also lead to healthier lifestyles.