Job-related stress is catching up with workers. A new study by Concordia University economists, published in BMC Public Health, has found that increased job stress causes workers to increasingly seek help from health professionals for physical, mental, and emotional ailments linked to job stress. Indeed, the number of visits to health care professionals is up to 26% 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,” says Sunday Azagba, a Ph.D. candidate in the Concordia department of economics.
“Stress can adversely affect an individual’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of disease,” study researcher Mesbah Sharaf says. “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 increased consumption of fatty and sweet foods.”
Previous research has found that aging populations and prescription drugs increase the price of health care. Yet few studies have so far correlated workplace stress rates on health care costs.
In the United States, recent polls found that 70% of American workers consider their workplace a significant source of stress, whereas 51% 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%,” says Sharaf.