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Is It Possible To Be “Bored To Death?”

Is it possible to be "bored to death?" One study says, "Maybe."


Photo: Steve Koukoulas (Flickr)

Many people in the workforce say they are "bored to death." Can this actually be true?

We’ve all been bored from time to time. Sometimes, when we’re really at loose ends, we might even say we’re “bored to death” or “so bored I could die!”

We don’t really mean it, of course.

But according to one study, it may be true. That is, it seems possible literally to be bored to death. Researchers in England looked at surveys done in the mid 1980s–several thousand questionnaires filled out by London civil servants about their jobs.

Inside The Study…

The researchers found that those who’d said that in the previous month they were bored at work were more than twice as likely as other workers to die of a heart problem over the follow up period. Workers who claimed to be interested in their jobs were less likely to die prematurely.

Now, this doesn’t mean that feeling bored every once in a while will kill you. We’re talking about chronic boredom, as in being bored all the time.

Not Only Boredom

And it’s not necessarily boredom itself that’s deadly. Most probably, according to the study, it’s the fact that being bored often leads to unhealthy habits such smoking, overeating, drinking, and abusing drugs.

Other studies have linked boredom and depression–a disease known often to lead to poor health.

The Opposite Of Bored

Does this mean that being engaged and interested–in other words, the opposite of bored–leads to better health?

Maybe. If not being bored means being physically active and adopting good dietary and exercise habits, then it certainly can’t hurt.

  • Emeri Gent [Em]

    Studies are like butter and margarine today, we can find more studies than we have days in our own life to determine if they helped us in any meaningful and/or perceptible way. Yet the “butter and margarine studies” that are now fodder or fuel for our minds can subvert us from research that has withstood the challenge and sometimes superficiality of transient time.

    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his research on flow is something that researched the effects and reasoning behind the relationship of flow as an optimal point between experiencing boredom or experiencing anxiety. Anxiety exacts a cost in one direction and the above mentioned study is but one atom of evidence that boredom exacts a cost in the other direction.

    I think we can get lost in the search for opposites, when the relationship between boredom and anxiety has been established via the rigorous and well thought out research work that contributed to the notion of “flow”.

    If boredom does not kill us or nor does anxiety, then there is adverse behaviours such as death by karoshi – which in Japan equals death through over-work – or a state where flow is itself “too much flow”. Csikszentmihalyi in his research was clear that achieving “flow” itself is not a panacea or a formula for a life well lived.

    Yet in his work, this is the lens through which I now look at boredom and anxiety and it is an intelligent lens, because my own way of life is in part a seeking of intelligent flow, rather than a life that is built on excess of even an apparently good thing.

    Boredom has a social and economic cost to it, this is why the theory of flow has critical application potential in the workplace but it is the personal decision as to how one can operate with optimal experience and become nurtured in the nature of boredom and anxiety and in so doing enjoy the act of existence – to wake up a new day, knowing that boredom and anxiety is our individual response to that new day and that both are a navigation indicators to pilot the fundamental nature of our own personal awareness.


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