• Reading Level 5
Science | Geography | Citizenship | RE | PSHE | Relationships and health

Report finds work has become the new religion

Teenagers say having a job they enjoy is twice as important as getting married or having children, according to a major new American survey. But anxiety and depression are rising steeply. What do you want to be when you grow up? It is a question you have probably been asked countless times. If you are not sure, you have probably had the follow-up questions: “What are you good at? What do enjoy? What is your passion?” As the old saying goes: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” But has this been bad advice all along? In an essay in The Atlantic, the writer Derek Thompson argues that “workism” is the new American religion, and that it is making people “miserable”. He defines workism as “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose.” He cites a new survey by Pew Research, in which 95% of US teenagers say that “having a job or career they enjoy” will be “extremely or very important” to them when they grow up. Only half say the same about having money, and less than half say they care about getting married or having children. And yet not everyone will find a job they enjoy. So what then? Even if they do, there will probably be “long periods of stasis, boredom or busywork.” After all, jobs are not there to make people happy; they are there to complete tasks, solve problems, earn money or all three. High expectations often do not meet reality. In the end, a culture that idolises work “is setting itself up for collective anxiety, mass disappointment and inevitable burnout,” Thompson says. He is not the only one to reach this conclusion. Last month, The New York Times quoted an investor who earned $1.2 million a year: “I feel like I’m wasting my life,” he said. “When I die, is anyone going to care that I earned an extra percentage point of return?” In January, a Buzzfeed News article about “millennial burnout” went viral. “Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time,” wrote Anne Helen Peterson. “Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it.” Work it out Is there really anything wrong with wanting to enjoy your job? After all, the average British person will spend 84,171 hours of their life working. Surely it is better to spend those hours doing something that gives you purpose? Or is it better to make the most of your free time — in other words, to live for the weekend? And has work really replaced religion in rich Western countries? Certainly, traditional religion is declining in the US and Europe. Has this left people searching for meaning and purpose in their lives? If so, can we find it through our work? Or should we be looking to nature? Family? Art? Travel? Ourselves? KeywordsBurnout - When someone becomes physically and emotionally exhausted after working hard for a long time.

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