HSE gets to heart of stress problems at work

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

The
report found that high job demands, low job control and poor reward systems
were related to an increased number of coronary heart disease incidents.

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

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


An imbalance in the effort people put into work with the rewards they get from
it on physical health.

Although
previous reports have linked working conditions with self-reported heart
disease, this research gives a clearer and more accurate picture as the
participants’ reports of heart disease were verified against medical records.

Sir
Michael Marmot, director of the ‘Whitehall II’ study at UCL said the results
showed how important stress at work is for people’s health.

"There
are two points to emphasise," he said. "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 work-place 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," she
said. "Employers need to realise just how serious the effects of
work-related stress can be and take action to prevent it. The HSE has published
detailed guidance to help them do this. I urge all employers to read and act on
the guidance now."

The
report also looks at the contribution of alcohol consumption to work absence
through accidents. As expected, alcohol consumption was related to a risk of
sickness absence due to injury at moderate levels as well as for ‘binge’
drinking and alcohol dependency levels.

www.hse.gov.uk

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