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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 11:34 GMT
Long hours 'stress British workers'
Stressed worker
One in four workers takes time off because of stress
More than half of British workers are suffering from stress and the problem is getting worse, a survey has suggested.

Long hours coupled with too many daily tasks are the main causes of stress in Britain's workforce, researchers said.

Carole Spiers, chair of the International Stress Management Association, told BBC News Online deadline pressures, long commutes and balancing work and home life were also major sources of anxiety.

The findings - announced on National Stress Awareness Day - suggest one in four workers takes time off to recover from stress related illness, at a cost to the economy of 7bn a year.

'Getting worse'

Unison's head of health and safety Hugh Robertson said companies were adding to employee stress levels by demanding long hours.

While flu tends to go away of its own accord, stress at work certainly doesn't

Carole Spiers
The survey of 500 employees discovered one in four employees worked six days a week or more.

And a third are putting in more than the 48 hours a week, suggested as a maximum by EU directives.

Ms Spiers said: "Each year we conduct research into stress and each year the figure just keeps on getting worse."

Productivity decline

Other findings revealed by the survey include:

  • Three out of five people are working unpaid overtime.
  • Workers in Yorkshire and Humberside have the longest hours in the UK.
  • Employees in Scotland work the shortest hours.
  • One in five people suffering from stress seek professional help to improve their health.
  • Work productivity declines for many people with stress.
  • Others have found the illness affects their relationships with friends and family.

Ms Spiers said the problem of stress must be addressed by employers and employees alike.

She said firms need to stop treating the illness as taboo and "look at their employees as their most valuable asset".

Ms Spiers advised workers: "Make time for your health, for your family, for your friends - move away from this frenetic activity."

She added: "If we were talking about a flu epidemic rather than stress at work there would be a public outcry about the scale of the problem.

"But while flu tends to go away of its own accord, stress at work certainly doesn't."

See also:

25 Jun 01 | Business
Stress causes 6.5m sick days
27 Oct 00 | Education
Stressed teachers reach for helpline
25 Jun 01 | Health
Stress: The effects
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