Isn’t stress just part of any job?

Stress is a normal part of any life, and how people react to various stressors is highly individual. But excessive negative stress (or distress) can contribute to or even cause serious health problems for employees.

Excessive job stress can be caused by many factors, but research over the past 15 years has shown that some stressors are worse than others:

  1. Jobs that are highly demand/low control jobs).
    • Jobs with high demand demoralization.
    • High demand a significantly higher susceptibility to infectious diseases—which in turn lead to increased disability claims.
  2. Jobs that require high physical or mental effort but offer little reward in the way of compensation, status, financial gain or career enhancement (high effort/low reward jobs).
    • Jobs that require high effort but offer little reward are associated with triple the rate of cardiovascular problems.
    • These jobs result in significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, and conflict-related problems.
  3. An accumulation of home stress and job stress affect overall wellness.
    • A 2002 Finnish study that followed 812 employees who were employed for 25 years at one company found that the risk of death from heart disease doubled under high demand body mass index.
    • High demand repetitive stress injuries (excess rates of up to 150% have been reported.)
    • People experiencing high demand/low control combined with high effort/low reward conditions, along with more general workplace stressors, had over five times the normal rate of colorectal cancer.
    • Distress can lead to accidents on the job, directly and indirectly.
    • Distress can increase conflict amongst co-workers.

The health of workers doesn’t have to be compromised by stress, however. Changes to the organization of work can make for a more mentally healthy workplace, especially when employees feel adequately rewarded and under greater control of their work.

Sources:

  • Best Advice on Stress Risk Management in the Workplace. Ottawa: Health Canada, 2000.
  • Kavimaki et al. Work stress and risk of cardiovascular mortality: prospective cohort study of industrial employees. British Medical Journal 2002; 325:857 (19 October).
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