Job Stress and Health

Article by Primrose Stuart

Stress sets off an alarm in the brain, which responds by preparing the body for defensive action. The nervous system is aroused and hormones are released to sharpen the senses, quicken the pulse, deepen respiration, and tense the muscles. This response sometimes called the fight or flight response is important because it helps us defend against threatening situations.

 The response is preprogrammed biologically. Everyone responds in much the same way, regardless of whether the stressful situation is at work or home.

Short-lived or infrequent episodes of stress pose little risk. But when stressful situations go unresolved, the body is kept in a constant state of activation, which increases the rate of wear and tear to biological systems. Ultimately, fatigue or damage results, and the ability of the body to repair and defend itself can become seriously compromised. As a result, the risk of injury or disease escalates.

Health Disorders caused by stress

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Some studies suggest a relationship between stressful working conditions health problems. According to the Encyclopaedia of Occupational Safety and Health (1997), there are a number of disorders that can arise which will affect employees in one way or the other. These include the following:

  • Cardiovascular Disease

Many studies suggest that psychologically demanding jobs that allow employees little control over the work process increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders

On the basis of research by the United State National Institute for Occupational Safety and health (NIOSH) , it is widely believed that job stress increases the risk for development of back and upper- extremity musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Psychological Disorders

Several studies suggest that differences in rates of mental health problems such as depression and burnout for various occupations are due partly to differences in job stress levels. Economic and lifestyle differences between occupations may also contribute to some of these problems.

  • Workplace Injury

Although more study is needed, there is a growing concern that stressful working conditions interfere with safe work practices and set the stage for injuries at work.

Stress, Health, and Productivity

Some employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil-that companies must turn up the pressure on workers and set aside health concerns to remain productive and profitable in today’s economy. But research findings challenge this belief. Studies show that stressful working conditions are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs-all of which have negative effects on the bottom line.

Recent studies of health organisations suggest that policies benefiting worker health also benefit the bottom line. A healthy organisation is defined as one that has low rates of illness, injury, and disability in its workforce and is also competitive in the marketplace. NIOSH research has identified organisational characteristics associated with both healthy, low-stress work and high levels of productivity. Examples of these characteristics include the following:

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  • Recognition of employees for good work performance.
  • Opportunities for career development.
  • An organizational culture that values the individual worker.
  • Management actions that are consistent with organisational values.


  1. Emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
  2. According to statistics from Meridian Stress Management Consultancy in the U.K, almost 180,000 people in the U.K die each year from some form of stress-related illness .
  3. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States estimates that stress account about 75% of all doctors visit. This involves an extremely wide span of physical complaints including, but not limited to headache, back pain, heart problems, upset stomach, stomach ulcer, sleep problems, tiredness and accidents.

It is clearly evident that whatever the cause of stress may be it is not good for health. When faced with stressful or challenging situations take a step back to redefine your goals and look at how best you can improve your situation. Your health should always come first. Always remember to take a moment at a time.


Cohen S, Kessler RC, Gordon LU. Strategies for measuring stress in studies of psychiatric and physical disorders. In: Cohen S, Kessler RC, Gordon LU, editors. Measuring stress: A guide for Health and Social Scientists. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1995.

2. Lazarus RS. Psychological stress and the coping process. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1966.

3. JOSHRC Newsletter More mental disorders or suicide may be certified as occupation-related. 2001 Jan;(22):57.

4. 2003. Self-reported work-related illness in 2001/02: Results from a household survey, (SW 101/02), HSE,6. Jansen M. Emotional disorders in the labour force: Prevalence, costs, prevention and rehabilitation. Internat Labour Rev. 1986;125:605–

6. Simmons SP, Simmons JC. Measuring emotional intelligence. New York: Summit Publishing Group; 1997.

Published by primrosestuart

Primrose Stuart Health is a new initiative designed to share knowledge towards living healthy lifestyles. It takes a holistic approach that supports a person as a whole to ensure physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being. The vision is to bring about the much-needed positive change in leading healthy, balanced lifestyles through sharing knowledge, research and experiences. To reach out to more people PS health welcomes ideas and knowledge from all communities to maximize impact in reaching people across the globe. The world is in dire need for the unification of talents, expertise, love and empathy to make it a better place.

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