Workplace Stress Can Make You Sick

Today’s article is a guest post by our colleague Jon Rehm of Nebraska.

In this economy where hirings are seldom and lay-offs are frequent, the American workplace is becoming a tough territory to navigate. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention research says that Americans now work more hours than both Japanese and Western European workers.

And this is a serious concern, because workplace stress has been established to have a clear and direct link to negative health consequences.

A recent European study showed that people who work long hours(11+) are more than twice as likely to experience major depression than those who work 7-8 hours a day. In a different study, scientists discovered that the risk of heart diseases among stressed workers are 67% greater.  Meanwhile, there are a number of studies which correlate long working hours to increased risk of anxiety, impaired cognitive abilities, and poor sleep quality.

The implications are clear: serious disabling medical conditions can arise from workplace stress.

 Psychological illnesses and depression cost companies money and result in less worker productivity, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

That’s why both workers and employers must care about mental health. Unfortunately, with the exception of emergency responders who are covered for mental problems arising from stress, Nebraska law makes it very difficult to recover workers’ compensation for many of the problems that are clearly associated with workplace stress. While medical responders clearly deserve mental health coverage due to occupational exposure to potentially stress-inducing conditions, scientific studies are clearly pointing out that other workers need medical treatment for stress-related problems as well.

Workers’ compensation law does need to evolve to better serve workers with all work-related health problems. Until that happens, workers simply need to make conscious efforts to protect themselves against workplace stress as best as they can. Marianna Virtanen, one of the authors of the abovementioned study linking long working hours and stress, gave some tips to American workers via

“Make a distinction between work and leisure; don’t skip your holidays; take care of your health and well-being, especially sleep and exercise,” wrote Marianna Virtanen.

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