Workplace stress could reduce life expectancy by up to three years

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On Wednesday National Stress Awareness Day will be marked in the UK. Despite greater awareness of the problem and a wider range of treatments being available, the problem is still rife in the workplace and, a new study suggests, may even have a bearing on life expectancy.

According to the new study from researchers at the respected  Harvard Business School and Stanford University, people who had spent less than 12 years in education were more likely to end up in jobs with unhealthy workplace practices. The study found that these people were most affected by stress at work.

Those with the highest educational levels were better able to cope with workplace stress and were found to have a longer life expectancy because of this. The report suggests that the amount of life lost to stress varies significantly for staff, depending on their race, educational level and gender. Those groups worst affected could lose nearly three years of life.

Issues such as unemployment and redundancy, issues with or gaining health insurance, shift work, long working hours, job insecurity, and conflict between work and family were found to be issues that prompted the most stress.

According to the study, low job control was the biggest influence on life expectancy for both men and women, with men most likely to be impacted by job insecurity and women largely impacted by shift work.

A slew of figures, polls and surveys have been released to mark National Stress Awareness Day, none of them painting a particularly rosy picture of worker mental health, but some showing pleasing advances in the way businesses are treating such problems. Research from Britain’s Healthiest Company (BHC), by Vitality, Mercer and The University of Cambridge found that UK companies are waking up to the importance of managing employee stress.

The survey found that almost three quarters (73% percent) of workers interviewed suffer from at least one dimension of work-related stress and that time pressure is the most common stress factor followed by employees not being consulted about change at work. Around 60 percent said their job made organising their life outside of work difficult and more than a third (36 percent) said they worked in excess of 40 hours per week

However 50 percent of employees said they were able to work flexible hours and more than 50 percent were able to work from home. The survey found that corporate work-life balance programmes are the most effective at reducing stress at work, with 71 percent of employees who tried them saying they were of benefit. But while over 70 percent of companies surveyed are offering at least one initiative designed to tackle stress, just one third (34 percent) offer separate work-life balance programmes

Interestingly of the 41 companies offering programmes to help nip stress in the bud , on average only 8 percent of employees decided  to use them.

 

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