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EDITIONS
Monday, 25 June, 2001, 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Stress causes 6.5m sick days
Stressed man
Workers are under more pressure than ever in the UK
Britain's bosses often have no idea how much stress their employees are under, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Stressed professions
1. Teaching
2. Nursing
3. Management
4. Other professionals
5. Social workers
6. Road transport
7. Police and prison officers
Source: HSE
It claims 6.5 million sick days are being taken every year as a result of stress.

And it is urging employers to take stress as seriously as other workplace hazards.

It wants managers to carry out a risk assessment to find out how much pressure their employees are under - and find ways of eradicating it.

According to the HSE's research, about 500,000 people are suffering from work-related stress or depression in the UK.

And nearly 150,000 workers have taken at least a month off sick because of stress-related illness.
Worker with the most stress?
Male or female
Non-white
Aged 35 to 44
Teacher
Working in London or Wales
Been in job a long time

Workers aged between 35 and 44 suffer the highest levels of stress, while the problem increased the longer they stay in the same job.

The teaching and nursing professions are the most stressful, with Wales and London the areas where self-reported work-related stress is the highest, according to HSE's survey.

Cost to industry

Employees were more likely to suffer from stress than the self-employed.

Causes of stress
Too much work to do
Boring or repetitive work
Bullying
Lack of control
According to HSE estimates, the cost of stress to British industry is 370m a year, while the cost to society as a whole could be as high as 3.75bn.

The Health & Safety Executive found work-related stress is the second most common type of occupational ill health, after muscular-skeletal or back problems.

One in five people report their work as "very" or "extremely" stressful.

Businesses can improve their productivity and protect themselves from litigation by carrying out a 'stress audit' to find out how much pressure employees are under, the HSE says.

'Burnt-out workforce'

Elizabeth Gyngell, an official at the HSE said: "Work-related stress is a huge occupational health problem, inflicting a heavy toll both in terms both of financial cost and human suffering.

Symptoms
Rapid weight loss or gain
Sleeplesness
Stomach disorders
Extreme irritability
Depression
"We recognise there is considerable pressure in the modern competitive workplace, but there is a difference between the buzz people get from doing a busy job and staff simply being unable to cope with the strains placed upon them.

"A burnt-out workforce is an unproductive workforce."

The HSE said company managers had a key role to play in reducing stress and the new guide gives them advice on how to identify which workers are at risk and what they can do to help.

It is advising managers to carry out a risk assessment to find out if they are placing undue demands on their workforce.

National campaign

The HSE research follows a report last month by the Mental Health Foundation, which claimed stress cost British industry 3bn a year.

What can managers do?
Look at the culture of organisation
Lead by example
Be more supportive
Praise and reward rather than punish

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"The HSE says stress is second only to back pain"
Professor Cary Cooper, University of Manchester
"Jobs are certainly getting more stressful"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Workplace stress
Is it making you sick?
See also:

19 Jun 01 | Health
12 Jun 01 | Health
04 May 01 | Wales
19 Apr 01 | Health
25 Jun 01 | Health
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