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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 00:16 GMT
Bullying bosses 'cause sickness'
office work
Women take marginally more sick leave, says the study
Workplace anxiety and bullying have been identified as prime causes of staff sickness, according to Swedish research.

Meanwhile, workers completing more than 50 hours a year overtime were only half as likely to take a day off.

Those who are working in a culture of long hours would be more likely to fall ill

Professor Cary Cooper, Umist
The research, carried out among Swedish postal workers, is in line with other studies carried out in the UK and abroad.

Sickness absence is reckoned to cost big businesses in the UK approximately 11bn a year.

One leading workplace stress expert said that Britain needed to adopt a more laid-back approach to cut the bill.

The Institute of Environmental Medicine in Stockholm headed the study, which questioned more than 3,000 employees of the postal service.

Women were slightly more likely to take a day off than men, and younger workers were also more likely to call in sick.

Roughly a third of both men and women had no sickness absence in the year measured, 1993.

However, 16% of women reported incidences of bullying at the workplace - this was found to double the risk of illness.

Downsizing incentive

Men who were anxious about changes in the structure of their organisation were also approximately twice as likely to have time off sick.

But those working in a company in which "downsizing" was likely were conversely far less likely to take time off - presumably fearing that more sickly workers would be far more likely to be made redundant.

Work stress expert Professor Cary Cooper from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology said that the findings would be similar in the UK as in Sweden, although this country was "the workaholic of the world".

He said that overtime was only good for employees' health if it was completed voluntarily.

He said: "Those who are working in a culture of long hours would be more likely to fall ill.

"In this country, we have gone too far - we need to have the work ethic and benefits of the US, but also with some humanity and the social awareness of many countries in Europe."

The study was published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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30 Jan 01 | Health
'Most workers stressed'
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