This study has shown that Chinese civil servants who are frequently under excessive pressure of work, interpersonal relationships, and family stress may have physical and mental disorders, serious psychological fatigue, and psychological problems. The physical and mental disorders may in turn increase the pressure and lead to sub-health and various diseases [20
], and may eventually reduce the efficiency of work and decrease HRQoL.
Personal habits will have an impact on the HRQoL of Chinese civil servants. This research shows that lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, having breakfast, sleep time, physical exercise, work time, operating computers, and sedentariness have a strong association with civil servants’ HRQoL.
Bad living habits such as smoking and drinking are major factors causing the decline of physical condition [22
]. Previous studies have shown that under the influence of alcohol, drinking a little can make blood vessels expand and relax. Alcohol goes into the blood circulation and has a certain inhibition on the sympathetic system. Therefore, moderate drinking may protect the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular system [24
]. As the result showed, civil servants who drank a little had higher HRQoL than civil servants who never drank or drank a lot. That means moderate drinking has benefits on civil servants’ quality of life. In this study, the total drinking rate among civil servants is 62.52%. There may be two reasons; first, they participate in some social drinking or alcoholism because of friendly gatherings, work entertainment, personal appetite, and many other reasons. Second, in order to pursue self-health, they have a small amount of alcohol safely at home under the influence of the concept that moderate alcohol consumption has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. For civil servants, risks of social drinking or alcoholism are enormous. A good grasp of the safety of self-protective drinking is difficult, and a little excessive drinking not only has no benefits but is extremely harmful to health. Therefore, government departments should pay enough attention to this problem. In the study, the total smoking rate among civil servants is 34.27%. Smoking is a great threat to human life, and induces death by cardiovascular disease of 11% of the total population in the world [22
]. A Norwegian study shows that smokers who smoke 1–4 cigarettes a day have more risk of ischemic heart disease than non-smokers [26
]. At the same time, the dangers of passive smoking on the human body cannot be ignored. Global researches on passive smoking and lung cancer indicate that there is a causal association between the occurrence of lung cancer and passive smoking [27
]. Therefore, smoking can physically cause harm to civil servants. The more smoking, the greater damage there is to civil servants’ physical health and lower PCS scores.
Decline in HRQoL is closely related to poor eating habits and irregular lifestyle. For civil servants, poor diet includes too simple a breakfast or having no breakfast. The body in a state of hunger may easily lead to palpitation, dizziness, mental deficiencies, and so on. In the study, some civil servants had no breakfast or rarely did so, and the proportion of those having breakfast daily was 61.68%. We may see that the phenomenon of irregular diet and no breakfast among civil servants is serious. As a basic human need, food intake affects people’s HRQoL [28
]. Scientific diet is the healthy material guarantee. Civil servants should change bad eating habits, have food on time, and pay attention to a reasonable nutrition.
Sleep time is closely related to HRQoL [29
]. As a physiological activity, sleep is more important than eating, and all the body’s vital functions are slowed down, completely at the state of rest, recovering and accumulating energy. If one has prolonged insomnia, this will lead inevitably to the irreparability of energy and spirit, and life exhaustion. A British and American study has shown that sleeping less than 6 hours per day is linked to the occurrence of some diseases, and people sleeping more than 8 hours per day show only minor illness with epiphenomenon [23
]. As an important physiological process, sleeping not only maintains normal function but also protects the normal metabolism and functions of various organs of body. If one cannot get adequate sleep, many negative manifestations such as sleep deprivation, physical fatigue discomfort, and other negative emotions with tension and anxiety may occur, therefore, leading to a decline in reactions, enthusiasm, abilities in solving problems, and HRQoL. As the previous studies showed above, sleeping problems may lead to poor sleep quality and illness, which might decline HRQoL. This might explain why civil servants who had 8–10 hours sleep had higher scores in PCS, MCS, and TS. In addition, adequate sleep is quite important, which can reduce and relieve stress for mental and emotional balance. Therefore, civil servants should arrange work and study reasonably to ensure adequate sleep.
Physical exercise can reduce the risk of many diseases, such as ischemic heart disease [30
], stroke [31
], diabetes [32
], cognitive disorder [12
], and total mortality [33
]. And moderate exercise can promote physical and mental health of individuals. Physical exercise can not only improve adaptability of cardiopneumatic and disease resistance, reduce diseases, enhance the body, and avoid obesity, but it can also help maintain a strong energy to improve efficiency at work. Appropriate exercise is conducive to physical and mental health, which can make people relax, eliminate tension, and enhance the immunity and adaptability to the environment. Taking part in various sports activities can improve HRQoL, by exercising, improving community participation, and so on. The study found that 32.58% of civil servants have scarcely done physical exercise. Heavy tasks, personal stress, body fatigue after work, having no interest in sports, and lack of sports site, equipment, and facilities may be the reasons that affect civil servants’ initiative and level of participating in exercise.
This study indicated that work time is associated with HRQoL. Long-term working and work entertainment increase civil servants’ workload directly, reduce their leisure time, and potentially add to their work pressure, which may gradually make satisfaction and enthusiasm for their job weaken with lack of energy. What is more, they result in boredom, anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms, and affect individual health and induce the decline of life quality. A five-year follow-up survey of UK White House showed that the danger of civil servants working more than 55 hours per week and suffering from depression or anxiety symptoms is 1.66 times and 1.74 times respectively than civil servants working 35–40 hours per week, and long-term working is excessively dangerous for women civil servants[34
]. Many factors such as a long period of overtime, excessive work, and mental stress also affect the health of employees indirectly [35
]. Therefore, civil servants who worked less than 10 hours a day had higher scores in PCS, MCS, and TS than those who worked more than 10 hours a day.
Operating computers and sedentariness have an adverse effect on health [37
]. Civil servants’ characteristics were ‘entertainment-style’, ‘stay-up-late-style’, ‘sitting silently type’, ‘meeting-style’, and ‘thinking-style’. Among these characteristics, ‘stay-up-late–style’, ‘sitting silently type’, ‘meeting-style’, and ‘thinking-style’ usually need long-term operating of computers, which induces a variety of chronic diseases, such as cervical spondylosis, scapulohumeral periarthritis, obesity, fatty liver, hypertension, and hyperlipoidemia. And these diseases have a negative impact on the health of civil servants, followed by the deterioration of health quality and the gradual descent of work efficiency.
In this study, the performance of the questionnaire in a large-scale survey is satisfactory and provides a large picture of the HRQoL of civil servants in China. However, several limitations need to be taken into account when interpreting our findings. Firstly, our use of data from five regions (North China, South China, Central China, Northwest China, and Northeast China) in China limited the applicability of our result to other countries. Secondly, the study design was cross-sectional and it is hence difficult to establish a cause-effect relationship between HRQoL and lifestyle factors. A longitudinal study is needed to investigate the relationship in a future study. Despite these limitations, the results of this analysis provide a large picture of the HRQoL of civil servants in China, which may facilitate further investigation by using a prospective study design.