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Record Rise in Stress at Work

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Stressed Man Stressed Man

October 2010
University of Manchester sociologist, Tarani Chandola, has published a report that reveals the global economic downturn has caused levels of work-related stress in the UK to soar.

The report claims that in each of the last two years, work stress levels rose by more than 4%, compared to annual rises between 0.1% and 1% from 1992 to 2009.

The report states that severe stress could trigger depression, anxiety, workplace injuries and suicide, and lead to a greater risk of heart disease.

Professor Chandola compiled existing evidence from peer-reviewed journals and major UK surveys to obtain a comprehensive view of work-related stress.

Women hit hardest
He told BBC News that work stress had been increasing steadily in Britain since the 1990s, but warned it had especially increased in the last recession.

"It's likely to continue to increase because of the determinants of work stress: changes in working conditions and the government spending," he added.

The report says that the public sector will be the most affected, and Professor Chandola said it was in the public sector that people have reported a significant increase in work hours.

The report warns job insecurity and unemployment rates tend to go hand in hand - whenever one of these factors rises, the other one jumps up as well.

"And [since] there are more women in the public sector workforce than men, that's why we expect to see this effect hitting women workers particularly," said Professor Chandola.

He said that since there was no law in the UK that forced managers to tackle their employees' stress levels, it was impossible to know for sure what exactly employers were doing for their staff.

The Health and Safety Executive, which oversees workplace health, safety and welfare, has set up a number of management standards on tackling work stress.

These standards suggest surveying employees regularly to keep on track of any potential problems of work-related anxiety or depression in the work force. They also propose different action plans to actively reduce stress in a company.

And Neil Carberry, of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents around 200,000 British businesses, told BBC News: "Employers take the well being of staff very seriously.

"As the recent CBI/Pfizer absence and workplace health survey showed, many companies have strategies in place to address issues, such as workplace stress, and recognise the benefits of doing this for both the business and employees alike."

Huge costs
Professor Chandola said employees, employers, as well as the government, have to deal with the work stress issue together.

"The trouble is, there are economic consequences of work stress," explained the researcher.


 

 Originally reported on the BBC News web site. [link]