Physically demanding jobs are linked to shorter working lives, more sick leaves and unemployment than jobs that don’t rely on muscle and heavy exercises, say researchers.

For the findings, published in the journal The BMJ, the researchers looked at the working life expectancy of 1.6 million people in Denmark between the ages of 18 and 65 who had a job as of November 2013.

The level of physical demand required for each person’s job was measured by the job exposure matrix or JEM for short. This covers 317 different types of occupation. The JEM score was categorised as low physical demands (below 16); moderate (16-28); and high (28 plus).

“This study showed that high physical work demands are a marked risk factor for a shortened

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