For many, job-related stress is on an upswing. In Canada, a new study shows that the increased stress is causing a growing number of workers to seek professional care for physical, mental and emotional ailments.
In work published in the journal BMC Public Health, Concordia University researchers report that the number of visits to health care professionals is up to 26 percent for workers in high stress jobs.
“These results show that people in medium-to-high stress jobs visit family doctors and specialists more often than workers with low job stress,” said first author Sunday Azagba.
Concordia economists reviewed nationally representative data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS).
This survey includes statistics on the number of healthcare visits, chronic illnesses, marital status, income level, smoking and drinking habits for adults aged 18 to 65 years — the bulk of the labor force.
“We believe an increasing number of workers are using medical services to cope with job stress,” said co-author Mesbah Sharaf.
“There is medical evidence that stress can adversely affect an individual’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of disease,” Sharaf said. “Numerous studies have linked stress to back pain, colorectal cancer, infectious disease, heart problems, headaches and diabetes. Job stress may also heighten risky behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, discourage healthy behaviors such as physical activity, proper diet and increase consumption of fatty and sweet foods.”
Overall, health care costs are increasing worldwide with experts attributing the cost escalation to aging populations and prescription drugs.
Canada controls the cost per episode of care through a nationalized system and a global budget for health care expenses paid to doctors or other providers. Nevertheless, health care costs continue to increase in Canada – which, according to the authors, is a reflection of workplace stress.
In the United States, recent polls found that 70 percent of American workers consider their workplace a significant source of stress, whereas 51 percent report job stress reduces their productivity.
“It is estimated that health care utilization induced by stress costs U.S. companies $68 billion annually and reduces their profits by 10 per cent,” said Sharaf.
Total health care expenditures in the U.S. amount to $2.5 trillion, or $8,047 per person. “That represents 17.3 percent of the 2009 gross domestic product — a nine percent increase from 1980,” said Azagba.
The economists believe that easing workplace stress could help governments reduce soaring health budgets and bolster employee morale.
“Improving stressful working conditions and educating workers on stress-coping mechanisms could help to reduce health care costs,” said Azagba.
“Managing workplace stress can also foster other economic advantages, such as increased productivity among workers, reduce absenteeism and diminish employee turnover.”
Source: Concordia University