Economic downturn continues to put employee health at risk

More evidence has emerged that the economic, financial and job insecurity created by the global downturn is causing a sharp increase in stress, anxiety and general mental ill health among workers.

A poll by AXA PPP healthcare has suggested that money worries are leading to increased stress and anxiety for more than a third of staff.

The survey of 200 HR professionals also found that a quarter of firms believed the majority of their employees were showing symptoms of stress as a result of money concerns.

More than three-quarters felt that employees would be more productive if they were less concerned about financial issues, but more than 40% admitted they would wait until a worker asked for assistance before offering advice or support.

At the same time, a survey by insurance firm Friends Provident to coincide with last month’s National Stress Awareness Day has argued that a quarter of adults plan to work longer hours during the next six months, while one in eight intend to take on a second job. Almost two-thirds of respondents said they felt more stressed, run down and prone to illness than they did three years ago, with a tenth specifically blaming their work, bosses and colleagues. And a poll by health insurer Bupa has found that, among those worried about their job security, two in five felt their stress levels had increased at work since the financial crisis began, while almost a quarter claimed to now be working longer hours to ward off the risk of losing their job.

It also found that women were significantly more stressed than men, suffering sleepless nights thanks to financial worries and fears about their own and their family’s health. Nearly half said they were stressed in their everyday lives compared with four in 10 men, while the credit crunch had left women feeling far more pressured at work and worrying significantly more than their male counterparts about their finances.

A number of studies in Occupational Health last month suggested that the downturn was leading to increased absence and presenteeism, as well as prompting employers to scrutinise spending on workplace health more closely.

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