The Job Stress Epidemic

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The Job Stress Epidemic

The word epidemic implies something that is widespread, as well as infectious, or "catching", and therefore, rapidly increasing. Job stress certainly satisfies all these criteria. I served as a consultant for Time magazine's June 6, 1983 cover story on stress, which referred to it as "The Epidemic of the 80s", almost as if it were some sort of new plague. However, the situation has progressively and seriously worsened since then. The vast majority of Americans perceive they are under much more stress now than five or ten years ago. One in three reported feeling under great stress daily, or several days a week in a 1992 survey, up 20% from one conducted less than 10 years previously. In a 1996 poll, almost 75% said they experienced "great stress" on a daily basis, with one third indicating this occurred more than twice a week. This was in sharp contrast to a similar 1983 survey, in which only 55% reported stress on a weekly basis. Mental stress is increasingly a reason for calling in sick, and in 1996, accounted for 11% of workers' absences, representing a 100% increase over the previous year.

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It is equally clear from these and other studies, that the leading source of stress for adults is their work. The proportion of workers who reported "feeling highly stressed" more than doubled from 1985 to 1990, and the ratio of those complaining of "multiple stress related illnesses" similarly escalated from 13 to 25 percent. In other surveys, 78% complained that work was their biggest source of stress, only 35% felt their jobs gave them pleasure or satisfaction, and more than half reported that their lives had become more stressful over the past 10 years because of this.

Nor is the problem limited to the U.S. A United Nations International Lab??? Organization report reveals that "waitresses in Sweden, teachers in Japan, postal workers in the U.S., bus drivers in Europe, and assembly line workers everywhere, are all showing signs of job stress". No occupation and no nation appears to be exempt. The problem of job stress has become so severe and so pervasive, that they have now described it as a "global epidemic". The World Health Organization similarly calls job stress, "THE 20th Century Disease".

The American Institute of Stress.

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