The 7 Most Miserable Jobs in America

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Think your job sucks? It could be worse. A lot worse.

At the very least, we’re making significant strides in making life better for everyone across the board, if that’s any consolation. It may not get you out from behind your desk, or deep fryer, any sooner. But it’s something to keep in mind.

A full 70% of American workers hate their jobs, according to a Gallup poll released a couple of years ago. While it’s unlikely that large strides have been made in improving or worsening that number, it’s rather troubling. If 70% of us are filled with dread and despair at the mere mention of the word ‘work’, or ‘job’, there could be some significant side effects to that reverberating across society.

Depression, mental illness, low energy – all may result from the fact that 70% of us spend eight or so hours a day doing something we hate. That’s not good.

While a good deal of us endure jobs we may not like, there are some jobs that are straight-up diabolical. Imagine waking up every day, staring face-to-face at a nightmarish, hellish profession, and trudging on – despite the fact that every fiber of your being is screaming out in anguish. It’s courageous – and unfortunately, entirely necessary for some of us.

What about the worst of the worst? The jobs that are so awful, that when social scientists dig into the data, the numbers jump off the charts? That’s what we’re going to examine, by looking at the results of a study published in late 2014 in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epistemology.

The study (previously covered by The Atlantic, among others) dug into data gathered from more than 200,000 workers in Pennsylvania working across 55 different industries, and looked at corresponding rates of depression among them. The findings were used to see which professions are the most miserable as a result.

There are a lot of reasons why people may hate their jobs, but these industries present the creme de la creme of bad jobs, per their link with rates of depression.

7. Publishing

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

They say that the publishing industry is on the ropes, and that may be a big reason that a lot of people on the inside are having a hard time. The depression rate within the publishing industry is over 12%, and there’s probably a lot of factors playing into that. Constant threats of going out of business – for magazines and newspapers particularly – along with lower wages, and constant cutbacks have been common, especially since the beginning of the last recession.

But things are looking up, as the industry is currently evolving to adapt to the digital frontier.

6. Legal services

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Legal services is a fairly broad term, but it includes a slew of professions within the legal field, like lawyers, paralegals, and more. Though the legal field is commonly thought to be associated with high earnings (lawyers, on average, make more than $130,000 annually), it’s the job itself which can be a grind. Long hours are common, and many other jobs don’t make nearly as much money as attorneys. And if you’re a public defender, you’ve got the toughest job of all.

The depression rate in the legal field is more than 13%.

5. Personal services

Cleaning counter

Source: iStock

Personal services is a term that is as broad as you can get, but in this case we’re narrowing it down to professions and industries that provide a ‘service’ on a ‘personal’ level, like cleaners, cooks, etc. Of course, there are many, many jobs within this category, but they all share one thing in common: they’re pretty miserable gigs. Just over 14% of workers were depressed within the industry, per the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epistemology study.

4. Manufacturing

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Factory jobs used to be in high supply across many parts of the U.S., but most of that work has since moved offshore to places where manual labor is much less expensive. And that’s really the crux of the issue here – people used to be able to have a stable, solid, middle class income working in the manufacturing sector. But those days are gone, and jobs are more scarce, and don’t pay nearly as well. Plus, there’s always the threat that your plant could be relocated to Bangladesh. In the manufacturing industry, the depression rate tops 14%.

3. Social work

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Social work is a tough gig, nobody can deny that. The hours are long, the pay is low, and the job itself is very challenging. It takes a special type of person to get into the field, and sticking with it for the long term requires a unique blend of enthusiasm and stamina. Dealing with some of the darker aspects of society evidently also spills over and leaves a lasting mark on those who work in field, as nearly 15% of workers from the study were found to be suffering from depression.

2. Real estate

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Real estate, though boasting a depression rate of almost 16%, is a tricky field to get a pulse on. One could presume that during economic expansions, when housing prices are on the up and up, that it’s a great industry to be in. But, when things go south (hello, 2006-2009!), it’s probably a lot less fun. Add to that fact that it’s a fairly cutthroat field, and it can be a bit more tough than many people think.

1. Public transit workers

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

If you’ve been on a bus or subway, you know that you’re as anxious as hell to get off at your stop. Imagine being stuck on that bus, all day, every day. Having to deal with the yelling, the fights, the crazies, the bodily fluids…. you get the point. That’s what makes working in public transit the nation’s most miserable profession, as more than 16% of the industry’s workers suffer from depression. That’s roughly one out of every six employees.

Be thankful you’re not a bus driver. And if you are a bus driver? Bless you, fearless warrior.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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