Monday, May 30, 2011

The costs of workplace stress

Recent statistics indicate that between 70-80 percent of all health related problems are either precipitated or aggravated by stress and it is estimated that 75-90% of all healthcare visits still result from stress related health problems. Conservatively stress costs the economy billions of dollars per year. Up to 75% of sick days are stress related and the American Institute of Stress report that stress was a major factor in up to 80 percent of all work related injuries and 40 percent of workplace turnovers
Other problems associated with workplace stress include sleep problems, digestive disorders, headaches, anxiety, depression, anger and hostility, alcoholism and drug abuse, heart and cardiovascular disease have reached epidemic proportions in affluent society.

In the workplace other consequences of stress include
•lost productivity
•increased absenteeism
•increased presenteeism
•decreased concentration, mental focus
•working at 50% of capacity or less
•shorter work life
•less fun and motivation

While some of the health effects of stress include
•Peptic ulcers
•Irritable bowel syndrome
•Coronary heart disease

One study found that those who expressed a high amount of despair had a 20% greater chance of developing atherosclerosis over a 4-year period. They suggested this was the same magnitude of increased risk as seen in a pack-a-day smoker. While another study showed that a sense of hopelessness can affect the arteries in the process of plaque build up.

As well as the effects on the immune system and an increased risk of
•Viral infections

Current research reveals that psychological stress is responsible for immune suppression on a range of fronts, including T-Cell response, antibody production and breaking down the natural killer cell which fight off viruses and cancer.

Unfortunately a lot of stress goes unrecognised and we rarely take action yet a few simple strategies like the meditation I have written about above can have such a profound effect on your stress. So if you have a bit of stress in your life do the little mediation exercise I have suggested.


  1. Does sick building syndrome make workplace stress worse or are the two unrelated?

  2. Darryl I'm not an expert but i'd imagine with some SBS would contribute.

    One comment I strongly agree that there is a link between physical and mental health and workplace stress. In my case, I cannot work full time and that will affect my super and career being over 45 won't help either. But in my case I was bullied and blamed. Part of the reason is the just get over it dog eat dog attitudes - well they bite back.

  3. Absenteeism, lost productivity, tardiness, accidents and injuries can also be caused by alcohol and drug abuse. To avoid all these problems, every organization should use a dot drug testing program in the workplace. This program can create a drug-free workplace for all employees.

  4. Another way to look at it is that workplace wellness programs should also include the time outside work. Everything you do at home and in other places and times can impact on work performance. For example stress at home and poor sleep may contribute to accidents in the workforce.
    When I work with an organisation I try to get them to look at the big picture and take into account the non working hours as well in a WWP.