Research has found people in thankless and low-paid jobs are at greater risk of suffering health problems.
Ask anyone to name the most stressful professions and they might guess neurosurgeon, bomb disposal expert, miner or even stockbroker.
But a new study suggests that it is menial, thankless jobs that leave people suffering the most stress, and are consequently the most unhealthy. Managers, on the other hand, seem to have an easier ride.
Chinese scientists have found that low-paid jobs with a high workload, such as waiting tables in restaurants, leave employees at far greater risk of heart problems and 58 per cent more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke, caused by a blockage of blood flow.
In contrast, it is scientists and architects who seem to be the least stressed professionals, and therefore at no extra risk of heart problems.
The researchers believe that people who experience high levels of stress at work are less likely to look after themselves and often resort to drinking and smoking. Many are also forced to work disruptive shift patterns, which have been linked to cancer and poor health.
"Having a lot of job stress has been linked to heart disease, but studies on job stress and stroke have shown inconsistent results," said Dingli Xu, from China's Southern Medical University.
Scientists said stress in a job was largely dependent on feeling in control and respected.
While doctors, teachers and other professionals may have mentally taxing jobs, they feel empowered and so do not become as stressed.
In contrast, jobs in the service industry are often vulnerable to the whims of customers and management and often involve long, unsociable hours. The analysis looked at all of the available research on job strain and stroke risk. The six studies analysed a total of 138,782 participants who were followed for three to 17 years.
Jobs were classified into four groups based on how much control workers had over their jobs and how hard they worked, or the psychological demands of the job, which included deadlines and mental exertion.
High-stress jobs were generally found in the service industry and included waitresses and nursing aides. In contrast, low-stress jobs were defined as scientists and architects.
The researchers calculated that 4.4 per cent of the stroke risk was due to the high-stress jobs. For women, that number increased to 6.5 per cent.
"Based on this study, it is reasonable to consider testing interventions aimed at increasing job control, such as decentralisation of decision-making and flexibility in job structure, such as telecommuting," said Jennifer Majersik, from the University of Utah, who wrote an editorial published alongside the research in the journal Neurology.