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Key workers prone to highest stress

Last updated on: January 27, 2011 08:45 IST

Key workers prone to highest stress

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Key employees of an organisation, such as managers and senior professionals, are more likely to experience high levels of work stress than their junior staff, a new study has suggested.

The study of 2,737 workers by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada found that 18 per cent of them reported that their job was 'highly stressful'.

The odds of having high stress were greater if workers were managers or professionals, if they thought their poor job performance could negatively affect others, or if they worked long or variable hours, according to the findings published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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"The people who report high stress are the ones most invested in their jobs," says Dr Carolyn Dewa of CAMH's Work and Well-being Research and Evaluation Program. "Employers should be very concerned with keeping this population healthy.

From a business perspective, it is in a company's best interest to support these workers." The job characteristics associated with stress pointed to workers who were engaged and responsible.

If workers felt their poor job performance could result in any physical injury, damage to company's equipment or reputation, or a financial loss, they were twice as likely to report high stress.

Having a workplace remote from their home, or having to entertain or travel for their jobs also increased the odds of being stressed.

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So did variable hours such as being on call, doing shift work or having a compressed work week.

According to the scientists, chronic stress can lead to burnout and can worsen existing mental health problems or physical disability.

The objective of the new study was to learn how workers view their responsibilities and job characteristics, and their experience with stress.

This information, the researchers said, could be used to help develop interventions targeting both workers and their work environment, which is considered a more effective approach.

"It is important that employees have access to resources that address their mental health concerns. In the long run, these interventions can help save some of the annual $17 billion in lost productivity in Canada," said Dewa.

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"Employers should be asking, 'What am I doing to reduce stress in my most valuable people?' "

The survey, which included workers aged 18 to 65 years from a wide range of fields, also found that 82 per cent of them reported low or no stress.

This group was more likely to be male, single, under the age of 25 or work in a small business, said the researchers.

In addition, if the workers were satisfied with their jobs, they were less likely to identify their jobs as being highly stressful, they added.


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