HSE claims work stress can lead to heart disease

The
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new research claiming that a
stressful working environment can lead to coronary heart disease.

The
report finds that high job demands, a lack of control at work and poor reward
systems are related to an increased number of coronary heart disease incidents.

These
effects are not explained by conventional risk factors, such as smoking or
being overweight, and the research claims that when workloads increase,
resulting in higher demands, less direct control or reduced support, an
employee’s mental health deteriorates.

The
report, from the Whitehall II study of the health of more than 10,000 British
civil servants looked at the influence of:


Job demands;


The amount of say people have over how their work is done


Support from managers and colleagues; and


The effect on physical health on the imbalance in the effort people put into
work compared to the rewards they get from it.

Professor
Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Whitehall II study, UCL, said the results
showed how important stress at work is for people’s health: "There are two
points to emphasise: first, stress at work is not simply a matter of having too
much to do, but also results from too little control over the work and from
insufficient reward for the effort expended. Second, the way work is organised
is crucial. The way to address the problem of stress at work is to look hard at
the organisation of the workplace."

Elizabeth
Gyngell, senior policy manager on stress for HSE, said it was crucial to manage
the prevention of workplace stress properly: "This research gives us
clearer data than ever before on the physical ill-health consequences that can
arise from not preventing work-related stress. Employers need to realise just
how serious the effects of work-related stress can be, and take action to prevent
it. HSE has published detailed guidance to help them do this. I urge all
employers to read and act on the guidance now," she said.

The
report also finds alcohol consumption is related to sickness absence, both
through drink-related injury and from ‘binge’ drinking and alcohol dependency
levels.

www.hse.gov.uk

By Ross Wigham

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