Stress has become the most common reason for a worker being signed off long-term sick, a report reveals today.
Experts said the psychological condition had become so widespread that it was the ‘21st century equivalent of the Black Death’.
Stress has even eclipsed stroke, heart attack, cancer and back problems, according to the report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Jill Miller, an adviser to the institute, says the report ‘highlights the heightened pressure many people feel under in the workplace as a result of the prolonged economic downturn’.
Stress was found to be especially common at firms that have announced redundancies.
Long-term absence is defined as taking four weeks or more off at one time because of sickness.
Cary Cooper, the co-author of a recent book about stress, The Science of Occupational Health, drew a distinction between pressure and stress.
He says the former is ‘stimulating and motivating’ but becomes stressful when ‘it exceeds your ability to cope with it’.
Professor Cooper, who is based at the Lancaster University management school, said stress was signaled by changes in behavior.
Typically, these include finding it difficult to focus, losing your sense of humor or losing your temper more quickly than normal.
In later stages, stress can manifest itself in over-eating or under-eating as well as smoking or drinking to excess.
Short periods of it are manageable, but it can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease or stomach and bowel problems, if it persists.
‘Given the fact we are in a downturn, workers have an intrinsic job insecurity. There are fewer workers doing more work,’ added the professor.
‘People are suffering from presenteeism [working long hours simply to impress the boss], which affects their home life.
‘Stress is the 21st century equivalent of the Black Death.’
The most common causes of stress for workers are an excessive workload, the management style of a boss, restructuring in the workplace, and problems at home.
The CIPD report shows that a typical worker has 7.7 days off each year due to sickness, typically from minor illnesses such as colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines.
But state workers, who make up one in five of the workforce, take two more sick days on average than private sector workers – 9.1 days compared with 7.1 days.
A separate report, from accountants KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, will warn today that the jobs market is set to nosedive.
Bernard Brown, a partner at KPMG, said: ‘It is only a matter of time now before we move from a growth position to one of a contracting jobs market.’
The report found the weakest rise in job vacancies and the slowest increase in people getting permanent jobs for about two years.
Source for Story: