Work stress and health consequences: How to tackle the problem?

March 1, 2016

Have you ever wondered what is stressful the work or going to work? Many people confess that they really love their job and are interested in learning new things at work. However, other work-related factors such as long commute to workplace, traffic, unpleasant co-workers, demanding managers, etc. becomes a cause of stress at workplaces. Recently a research paper released by experts from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools has revealed work stress causes that affecting your health. According to the researchers, factors such as job insecurity, unfair management, risk of being laid off, increased work demands, long working hours, lack of health insurance, and lack of time to spend with family are some of the contributors to work stress.

Experts suggest that work stress is not just restricted to affect your mental health, instead being under too much stress has been associated with health issues such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health. In fact, work-related stress is thought to be a serious issue as it found to be more injurious than diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s look at some health problems that are triggered by work stress and scientific evidence suggests that work stress can be highly injurious to health.

Pain

Pain is an extremely emotional and unpleasant experience.  Activities that put excessive strain on back muscles such as sitting in wrong posture, carrying heavy things incorrectly, not exercising, etc can cause back pain. An evidence from a survey report that 50% of people who have a sitting job tend to suffer from chronic low back pain. Another study reports that more than 80 percent people using computers at workplaces for more than four hours complain of back pain.

Anxiety

We all tend to get tensed and anxious during stressful situation. Anxiety is body natural response to fearful or stressful situation. However, when we face stress every day, the body does not consider it as a useful phenomenon. Instead too much work stress starts affecting our mental and physical health. Studies report that people who have excessive workload and time pressures show a twofold increased risk of suffering from anxiety (Source: Work stress precipitates depression and anxiety in young, working women and men) In India, many youngsters take up a job in call centres and BPO. Studies report that nearly 55% Indians working in call centre report suffering from anxiety due to work stress.

Fatigue

When we do some important work such as analysing study reports, making a presentation or working on a budget, it demands a lot of mental attention. Studies report that when we perform mental and physical tasks at the same time, some specific areas, called prefrontal cortex (PFC) are activated in the brain (Source: The body and the brain: Impact of mental, physical exertion on fatigue development)

This makes us feel tired both mentally and physically. Fatigue not only reduces the work productivity but also increases risk of errors and accidents at work.

Heart Disease

Work stress has repeatedly been associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Researchers have found that high job stress increases heart rate which can further increase the risk of having high blood pressure. One study reported that almost 20 % of people who reported be under too much work stress had 79% increased risk of coronary disease. (Source: Forbs – Work Stress Directly Linked to Heart Disease, Again)  As per the Indian statistics, nearly 18 % working professional aged 19 to 25 and 23% professionals aged 26-30 years show risk of hypertension.

Stroke

Work stress is known to affect ones mental health and increase risk of illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Some studies report that work stress can actually affect your brain health too. A study conducted by researchers from China (Source: Stroke Risk Higher for Those with Stressful Jobs) has reported that people who suffer from too much work stress and mental tension are most likely to suffer from brain stroke. According to experts, work stress increases the level of hormone cortisol in the body which can further cause inflammation and lead to stroke.

The evidences given above clearly demonstrate that there is a link between work stress and chronic illnesses. Although we know the seriousness of consequences work stress can have on our health, it is not possible to avoid stressful situation at workplaces.  Although it seems that stress and struggle is part of jobs that are at lower hierarchical levels, it is not true.  In fact studies report that people who are successful and work on the top positions have the most stressful jobs. However, some people learn to manage their stress very well and that is what is needed in every job. Smoking, taking short breaks, having coffee, or playing computer games, etc. seem like an easy option. But, these are just temporary ways of stress relief and most of them distract you from stress merely due to psychological reasons.

The infographic given below explains everything you need to know about work stress. Work stress management seems like a need for the day in modern work culture. Hence, some forward-thinking companies have implemented corporate wellness initiatives that conduct yoga workshops, diet counselling or provide massage therapies in work premises. The infographic gives some tips for healthy stress management at workplaces and explains what role you need to play as an employee or employer.

Please include attribution to Four Fountains De-Stress spa with this graphic.

Work Stress Causes & Management

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