There is growing evidence that starting a business reduces the stress and lingering myths that prevent employees from taking the plunge.

In 1989, a 39-year-old executive found herself at a crossroads. After 17 arduous years of climbing the corporate ladder aVogue, lost the position of editor-in-chief to a rival, Anna Wintour. One day, while struggling to find the right dress for her upcoming wedding, she discovered a business opportunity: designing dresses for others. Hesitating, she wasn’t sure whether to do it: maybe it’s too late for me, the executive wondered. Still, he took the plunge and, a year later, opened a store in New York’s Carlyle Hotel.

Fast forward to 2024, and that executive is Vera Wang, one of the most successful fashion designers in the world, with a net worth of over $650 million. It’s easy to marvel at Wang’s financial success. But as new research reveals, the real payoff of starting a business extends far beyond money—it also means less stress, better health, and a more meaningful career.

The burnout that causes successful people to leave corporate America has only intensified in recent years. During the height of the pandemic, Gallup recorded record levels of stress. It would be easy to dismiss this number as an inevitable byproduct of COVID-19, except for one excruciating detail: We just got stressed out today.

Why entrepreneurs report less stress than the average worker

As someone who has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, I know firsthand the benefits and misconceptions about taking matters into your own hands and starting a business. After a year filled with record layoffs, back-to-work mandates, and the looming threat of AI, it’s time to take worker wellness research seriously and debunk the myths that keep employees from being healthier, more satisfying and less stressful. lives

In recent years, a new wave of peer-reviewed research indicates that starting a business can dramatically reduce stress and improve physical and mental health. That revelation first gained traction with a groundbreaking paper published in theJournal of Work and Organizational Psychology. In it, researchers compared a nationally representative sample of employees and employers on various health factors, including blood pressure, doctor visits, physical and mental illnesses, and general well-being. The results overwhelmingly favored employers, who evidenced significantly lower rates of blood pressure and hypertension, fewer hospital visits, and a reduced incidence of physical and mental illness.

How can you reduce the stress of starting a business, which many rightly consider a massive and stressful undertaking?

The A2020 study offers important clues as to why business owners report less stress than the average American. Economists from Colorado State University and Florida Atlantic University concluded that starting a business fosters a greater sense of purpose as entrepreneurs experience more autonomy and competence at work.

And while we’ve been taught that being an employee is the safest financial path, a 2022 JP Morgan report indicates that the average self-employed household has a net worth more than four times that of the average worker. Counterintuitively, starting a business offers greater financial stability than working for an employer.

What’s stopping more employees from starting their own businesses?

I recently commissioned a proprietary study of 1,100 current and potential entrepreneurs, asking about their perceptions of entrepreneurship, motivation for starting a business, and work experiences. We then compared those who recently started a business with employees who have considered starting a business but haven’t yet taken the plunge. We discovered three key barriers, all of which are based on faulty assumptions about entrepreneurship.

First, aspiring founders believe they need much more experience, industry knowledge, and financial savings to get their business off the ground than actual business owners do before starting their own. In other words, higher, often unrealistic, standards are imposed.

Another major obstacle preventing people from starting a business is the fear that entrepreneurship will require excessively long hours, severely affecting their personal life and family relationships. Our research tells a different story. As a result, most new entrepreneurs work the same total hours as they did before starting their business, with one notable difference: they do so while experiencing less work-related stress. At the same time, more than twice as many entrepreneurs report that starting a business has positively affected their family relationships than that it has harmed them.

A final myth that prevents people from starting a business is the belief that successful founders are usually young. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates may have launched their companies while still in college, but research conducted at Wharton indicates they are the exception, not the rule.

In our study, aspiring entrepreneurs guessed that the average age of a successful founder was 35. Whartons analysis indicates that the real average is 42 years, but even this number may paint an unrealistic picture. That’s because when you exclude the software industry, the average age of founders is closer to 47 than even Vera Wang was when she opened her flagship store.

Not only is youth not a requirement for starting a business, but if you are striving for success, age is an asset. According to Whartons analysis, founders between the ages of 40 and 49 tend to vastly outperform younger founders. In fact, their companies are more than three times more likely to rank among the top performing startups.

For those at a crossroads, the path to overall well-being may lie in the very idea you believe is the biggest risk. For those who want to achieve greater wealth, better health and deeper personal satisfaction, taking the entrepreneurial leap could be the right move. It’s never too late to move to a more positive work life, data is on your side.

Ross Buhrdorf is the CEO of ZenBusiness, which has empowered over half a million people to launch and scale their businesses.

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