The 15 Most Unhealthy Jobs In America

Some jobs intrinsically have more health risks than others. A nurse working in a hospital is far more likely to catch an infectious disease than a lawyer working in an office.

To rank the most unhealthy jobs in America, we used data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a U.S. Department of Labour database full of detailed information on occupations.

In order to analyse jobs by their impact on workers’ health, we took O*NET measures of six health risks in each of the 974 occupations in the database: exposure to contaminants; exposure to disease and infection; exposure to hazardous conditions; exposure to radiation; risk of minor burns, cuts, bites, and stings; and time spent sitting, since studies show that frequent inactivity shortens your lifespan. O*NET scores these factors on a scale from 0 to 100, with a higher score indicating an increased health risk.

Nuclear Equipment Operation Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.2

What they do: Operate equipment used for the release, control, or utilization of nuclear energy to assist scientists in laboratory or production activities.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to radiation: 89

Exposure to hazardous conditions: 77

Exposure to contaminants: 65

Medical, Clinical, and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.3

What they do: Perform complex medical laboratory tests for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to disease and infections: 96

Exposure to hazardous conditions: 69

Exposure to contaminants: 68

Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers

Overall unhealthiness score: 55.7

What they do: Pilot and navigate the flight of fixed-wing, multi-engine aircraft, usually on scheduled air carrier routes, for the transport of passengers and cargo.

Top three health risks:

Time spent sitting: 93

Exposure to radiation: 73

Exposure to contaminants: 68

Derrick Operators, Oil and Gas

Overall unhealthiness score: 56.0

What they do: Rig derrick equipment and operate pumps to circulate mud through a drill hole.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to contaminants: 100

Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 93

Exposure to hazardous conditions: 91

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Overall unhealthiness score: 57.7

What they do: Operate or maintain stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or industrial processes.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to contaminants: 99

Exposure to hazardous conditions: 89

Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 84

Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators

Overall unhealthiness score: 58.2

What they do: Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to contaminants: 97

Exposure to hazardous conditions: 80

Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 74

Immigration and Customs Inspectors

Overall unhealthiness score: 59.3

What they do: Investigate and inspect people, common carriers, goods, and merchandise, arriving in or departing from the U.S. or between states to detect violations of immigration and customs laws and regulations.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to contaminants: 78

Exposure to disease and infections: 63

Exposure to radiation: 62

Podiatrists

Overall unhealthiness score: 60.2

What they do: Diagnose and treat diseases and deformities of the human foot.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to disease and infections: 87

Exposure to radiation: 69

Time spent sitting: 61

Veterinarians and Veterinary Assistants/Technologists

Overall unhealthiness score: 60.3

What they do: Diagnose, treat, or research diseases and injuries of animals and perform medical tests in a laboratory environment for use in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in animals.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to disease and infections: 81

Exposure to minor burns, cuts, bites, or stings: 75

Exposure to contaminants: 74

Dentists and Dental Hygienists/Assistants and Dental Lab Technicians

Overall unhealthiness score: 62.9

What they do: Examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. May treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. May fit dental appliances or provide preventive care.

Top three health risks:

Exposure to disease and infections: 87.8

Exposure to contaminants: 76.2

Time spent sitting: 73.6

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