Unhealthiest Jobs In America

by Richard Owens 3 years ago in advice / list

You may feel a lot better about your job after reading about some of the unhealthiest jobs in America.

Unhealthiest Jobs In America

Not all jobs are equal, and some have huge risks compared to others. You may feel a lot better about your job after reading about some of the most unhealthy jobs in America. Or maybe worse, if your job is included. You could probably put 20 different occupations in the health sector on this list, as they are exposed to the most germs and diseases by a long shot. However, there are a variety of factors that are taken into account when considering how unhealthy a job is. The possibility of injury, exposure to germs, and hazardous conditions are some of many.


I'm starting this list off with what most people may find the most obvious; doctors and nurses alike deal with ill people throughout their workday, every single day. While most other jobs on this list may only be at risk of catching a couple different diseases, the medical practitioners see it all. They are dealing with infections, coming in contact with people's blood, saliva, and many more things that I don't think I need to describe. Over their careers, they will come in contact with most sicknesses and have to treat them.

Dentists/Dental Assistants

Photo by Peter Kasprzyk

You may have heard that the human mouth is the dirtiest part of the human body and that fact alone explains this professions place on this list. The mouth has more bacteria or germs than about any other place in the world and dentists are constantly placing their fingers, hands, and looking into it. This alone puts them in danger of catching almost every virus or disease out there, as most can be transmitted through saliva. They may also be exposed to radiation when they use x-rays, and the some of the chemicals they come in contact with can negatively affect their health as well.

Another aspect of a dentist’s job that hurts their health is the amount of time that they spend sitting. This is a common theme on this list and you may not think of that as something that negatively affects your health. However, sitting for long periods of the day has been shown by several studies to have many adverse health effects, like increasing your risk of diabetes. So, keep that in mind when you see that on the list.


Photo by Epicurrence

While the chance of an accident is slim but also a hazard to be considered, pilots face a variety of health threats nonetheless. The biggest one that most people don't know is the amount of radiation they are exposed to. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco studied radiation levels in airplanes cruising at 30,000 feet, and the results are astounding. They found that at that elevation, the amount of radiation emitted into the plane in one hour is equivalent to sitting in a tanning bed for thirty minutes. These astronomically high levels are due to the fact that the UV radiation from the sun at these heights are twice the amount found on the normal ground level, and the windshields of the planes don't do a great job of blocking out the sun.

These high rates of radiation can put the pilots at a huge risk of contracting melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Combine the radiation with the fact that they spend all of their time at work sitting, and you’ll find that a pilot is a much more unhealthy job than you may have thought.

Flight Attendants

If you have ever gotten sick after flying on an airplane, this makes complete sense. Flight attendants are exposed to hundreds of random people from all over the world each day, stuck in a small confined space for hours on end. They are constantly being exposed to diseases and contaminants, as they are serving all of these people. Also, they may be tired when doing this as they are traveling, which can lower their immune system. These factors alone are a recipe for getting sick frequently. Add that to a huge exposure to radiation, as mentioned about pilots, and a flight attendant is one of the least healthy jobs.

Commercial Fisherman

Photo by Julien Widmer

Although fishermen are active throughout the day, the job is still very dangerous. According to the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the fishing industry suffered the most fatalities in 2011, with 121.2 per 100,000 workers. A boat capsizing most often causes these deaths.

Besides the threat of death, fishermen are also vulnerable to many other injuries. The most common are falls and slips from constant wet conditions, as well as cuts from using knives often. Being away from land and without much oversight from organizations such as OSHA, fishing boats are a lot less likely to have safe working conditions.

Waste Collector

People who collect trash and recyclables are vulnerable to various things. The most obvious being that there is an insurmountable amount of diseases and germs in trash. They are touching and are around these things all day, which greatly increases their chance of catching an illness. They also can get cuts from sharp materials such as broken glass or metals, which can lead to infections and other complications. Other unhealthy parts of this profession include long periods of sitting and driving a large vehicle throughout the entire day gives them a higher probability that they will be involved in an accident.

Immigration and Customs Inspectors

Commonly known as border control, these inspectors face a range of unhealthy conditions. First and foremost, they are susceptible to catching diseases, as they are dealing with people who are traveling from all around the world. You never know what virus or disease a person could be carrying or where they have been. Many inspectors are outside where traffic stops, meaning they are breathing in emissions from thousands of vehicles each day, which is terrible for the lungs and brain. Also, they are exposed to large quantities of radiation throughout the day, as the x-ray scanners that are constantly running emit large amounts. Also, although rare, violence can break out, leading to these officers being put in danger.

Construction Worker

A construction worker is a broad term that applies to people in many disciplines, but these conditions they face are the same across the board. The most common are injuries. Falls are the biggest problems, as well as loss of hearing due to loud machines constantly moving around them. They also are using their body a lot for repeated hammering and things of that nature. Sure, the active part is healthy as it can keep the body in shape, but repeated hard motions like that can lead to injury over time. Many carpenters require the famous "Tommy John" elbow surgery due to repeated hammering, as well as knee problems from kneeling all day.


Photo by Verne Ho

Besides cleaning dirty items that are covered in germs all day, professional cleaners are hurt more from the actual cleaning materials themselves. These chemical solutions are very potent and can cause harmful effects when exposed to eyes or bare skin. They also can be unhealthy if they ingest it into their lungs and it may cause an allergic reaction. Constantly breathing in these cleaning fumes can be terrible for the brain, eyes, lungs and nose. As well as the cleaning supplies they use, falling on wet floors can also injure these workers and pushing heavy carts can injure their back.

Computer Specialists

Photo by Valeriy Khan

Most people would think of a computer programmer or designer as a relatively safe and harmless job. As I have mentioned with several other jobs on this list, sitting for 8 or more hours a day is very unhealthy and unnatural for your body. Now, some desk jobs are doing better with this, incorporating standing desks and fitness balls instead of chairs. But, the real hazards of this job are from the staring at a bright computer screen and typing.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is the official term for the damage that prolonged viewing of computer screens can do to your eyes. It is estimated that anywhere from 50-90% of people who work in front of a computer screen suffer from it. Symptoms of this can include sore eyes, blurry or double vision, sensitivity, difficulty focusing on images, neck pain, and headache. Even worst than the damage this job can do to your eyes is what it can do to your hands or wrists. Typing and using the mouse too much over time can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, which is essentially a pinched nerve in the wrist. This can lead to prolonged pain that may last for the rest of the person’s life, and can sometimes only be corrected with surgery.

Some professions on this list may surprise you, like a pilot, and others on the list you probably could have guessed, like a dentist. Nonetheless, these are the unhealthiest jobs in America. As you can see, they are represented by a wide array of career areas, with healthcare, labor, technology and other categories being represented. Inherently, there are health and safety risks with every job, these are just the ones that your health will be greatest effected from.

Richard Owens
Richard Owens
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Richard Owens

Beer Connoisseur, classically trained pianist, traveled to over 50 countries in my 20s alone, and lover of the arts.

See all posts by Richard Owens