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Stress at work can kill you

A new study indicates that long work hours and high pressure jobs reduces life expectancy of office workers equalling the effects of second hand smoking and poor diet.

Stress at work is as harmful to your health as second-hand smoking

Job insecurity, long working hours and high job demands create a stressful environment for many employees in U.S which is considered as harmful as second-hand cigarette smoke. According to the American Institute of Stress (A.I.S.) “Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults.”

An extensive research combining 228 studies on workplace stress were performed by researchers from Harvard and Stanford. According to the study the effect of stress at work is can be as harmful as second-hand cigarette smoke. Overall, 10 stressors which affected the health of study participants in a major way, caused morbidity, mortality and mental health and physical health, were presented. All of the studies had included over 1,000 participants, more than a half had followed the participants for a prolonged period of time.

The list of stressors included low organizational control, a prolonged working schedule, the lack of health insurance, job demands that are too high, job insecurity, as well as the conflict between family life and work. The study suggested that job insecurity increased the odds of having poor health by about 50%. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) “Job stress results when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker”.

Researchers also found that work-family conflict raises the probability of poor physical health by more than 90%.Odds of being diagnosed with an illness in case of high job demands increases by 35%. In general, working long hours will increase mortality rates of office workers by almost 20%. The new findings were published in the Journal Behavioural Science and Policy based on numerous reviews and meta-analyses.

The researchers highlighted that even though many companies are offering healthcare and wellness programs for their employees, they often miss the part which is related to work stress. “Wellness programs are great at doing what they’re designed to do,” a researcher tells the Boston Globe. “But they’re targeting [employee behaviour],” such as diet and exercise, “not targeting the cause of stress. There are two sides of the equation and right now we focus on one side. We’re trying to call attention to the other side, which is the effect of managerial practices.”

A report from The RAND Corporation suggests that about half of all U.S. employers with 50 or more employees now offer some form of wellness promotion program however as a common policy response to employee health issues, evidence for their effectiveness is questioned.
Researchers concluded that “Unless and until companies and governments more rigorously measure and intervene to reduce harmful workplace stressors, efforts to improve people’s health—and their lives—and reduce health care costs will be limited in their effectiveness.”

According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), the severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Scientific studies based on this model confirm that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands but have little control are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Giving employees a decision-making mandate, increasing an opportunity for their independent work and thinking as well as diminishing their insecurity of work loss will decrease the level of stress they experience at work.