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Reading - Stress at work costs economy 100bn a year





Stress at work costs economy 100bn a year, says Mind

John Carvel, social affairs editor

Monday May 16, 2005, The Guardian


Excessive stress at work is causing an epidemic of depression and anxiety, costing the British economy about 100bn a year in lost output, the mental health charity Mind said last night.

It published results of an investigation into why mental health problems have taken over from back pain as the main reason why people are unable to work and can claim incapacity benefit.

Anxiety and stress are responsible for the loss of about 45m working days a year, but they also contribute to underperformance among those who do not take sickness leave and struggle to stay on the workplace treadmill. According to the charity, nearly 10% of the UK's gross national product is lost each year due to job-generated stress.

Its report distinguished between positive pressure at work, which can be a valuable motivational spur, and stress, which can lead to a downward spiral of physical and mental ill health.

Factors inducing stress included:

a) Poor working conditions, including shift work, long hours, travel, noise, smells, lighting, work overload and work underload.

b) An unclear role in the organisation, including ill-defined expectations, conflicting priorities, role conflict and responsibility for others.

c) Personality factors, including a tendency towards anxiety, or a disposition that is unsuited to the type of work - for example extrovert people may find a socially isolated job more stressful than introverts.

d) Poor relationships at work, including low levels of trust, lack of supportiveness and inadequate opportunities to explain problems to someone who will listen.

Such stress could lead to a suppression of the immune system. If it was chronic or severe, it could lead on to a range of medical, psychological or behavioural disorders.

Early warning signs included insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension, heart palpitations, stomach upsets, breathlessness without exertion and headaches.

Psychological warning signs included inability to concentrate, sense of humour failure, high levels of anxiety, constant irritability or withdrawal from social contact.

The charity quoted research on work-related stress by the Health and Safety Executive suggesting that 20% of employees suffered from stress levels described as "very" or "extremely" stressful.

The most common stress-related complaints presented to GPs were depression and anxiety. Their reports indicated that these conditions might affect 20% of the UK working population.

In a recent CBI survey of more than 800 companies, 81% said mental health of employees should be a company priority, but fewer than one in 10 had an official policy on mental health. The peculiarity of this mismatch was highlighted by another CBI estimate that 30 times as many working days were lost due to mental ill health as from industrial disputes. The TUC reported that 58% of workers complained of being stressed because of their job.

Richard Brook, chief executive of Mind, called for more openness about stress and mental health problems in the workplace. "Today's competitive and pressured work environments can make it difficult for people to disclose mental health or work stress problems without the fear of affecting their career prospects," he said. The government should take a lead in tackling the stigma that is commonly attached to mental ill health.

The charity called for changes in working practice to give employees genuine control over their work and an appropriate degree of self-management of workload. It said roles should be clearly demarcated, with defined responsibilities and expectations.

Employees should be actively discouraged from working excessively long hours and there should be support for people with mental health problems.

The charity published the report at the start of Mind week, with a range of activities to draw attention to mental health issues, including stress-busting exercise sessions at a national chain of gyms.



Answer the following questions according to the text.

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True or False

Correct the False statements.

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1)All pressure in the workplace has negative effects
2)Not having enough work to do can cause stress
3)Outgoing individuals sometimes find socially isolated environments stressful?
4)Stress has a positive effect on the immune system
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In your own words

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in your own words


Find synonyms in the text for the following words

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3)Outgoing person
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