Work and Stress
Health care costs are much higher in workers who are stressed or depressed than in others who are not stressed. Nearly half of American workers describe their jobs as very stressful, making job-related stress an important and preventable health hazard.
Several studies are now suggesting that job-related stress is as great a threat to health as smoking or not exercising. Stress impairs concentration, causes sleeplessness, and increases the risk for illness, back problems, accidents, and lost time from work. Work stress can lead to harassment or even violence on the job. At its most extreme, chronic stress places a burden on the heart and circulation that in some cases may be fatal.
Not all work stress is harmful. However, studies suggest the following job-related stressors may increase health risks, particularly in men:
- Having no say in decisions that affect one's responsibilities
- Unrelenting and unreasonable performance demands
- Lack of effective communication and conflict-resolution methods among workers and employers
- Lack of job security
- Night-shift work, long hours, or both
- Too much time spent away from home and family
- Wages not matching levels of responsibility
Reducing Stress on the Job. Many companies put intense pressure on their employees to behave in ways that increase tension. Yet, there are numerous effective tools and techniques available to reduce stress. Furthermore, treatment for work-related stress has proven benefits for both the employee and employer. Studies show that stress management programs save in workers compensation costs, and may lower employees' blood pressure.
In general, however, few workplaces offer stress management programs, and it is usually up to the employees to find their own ways to reduce stress. Here are some suggestions:
Review Date: 10/14/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.