This Is Why Work Stress Is A Modern Epidemic
Last week's shootings outside the Empire State Building in New York City shone a spotlight on mental health issues in the workplace. While it's not clear whether mental illness drove Jeffrey Johnson to target a former colleague a year after being laid off from his job at Hazan Imports, it's clear that Johnson -- who was slain by police after apparently shooting to death his former co-worker -- was under extraordinary stress. (The New York Post reports that the former fashion accessories designer was being evicted from his apartment, on top of being jobless.)
Johnson's case was extreme, but most people are grappling with work stress, and a spate of new studies show what's causing it and its fallout.
Workers in the financial sector say that they are doing the job of 1.3 people, or handling 30 percent more work than they should, according to a new study conducted by the British staffing consultancy, Ranstad. The study, based on results of a survey of 2,000 financial professionals, found that the increased workload was leading to more errors -- nearly 1 in 5 respondents said that they made a mistake in the past year as a result of being tired or stressed.
It's The Workload
And the situation was more pronounced for those working in the legal sector, where workers said that they are doing 60 percent more work than they should be responsible for.
Lack Of Control Over Their WorkWomen's risk of developing diabetes is doubled if they have little or no control on the job, according to the Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. The study followed 7,443 women in the Canadian province of Ontario for nine years and found that stressful jobs cause more cases of diabetes than not exercising.
The same uptick is not true for men, the researchers said. The reason for the gender differential was not immediately clear, but the study's researchers suspected that the explanation had something to do with how women eat to cope with stress, and not because of some internal metabolic reaction. Women are "more likely to turn to foods with higher fat and sugar content than men," Peter Smith, the study's lead author told the AFP.
Job Interviews Are More Stressful Than You ThinkResearchers have known for a while that early childhood psychological trauma could alter your genetic code. But what about "acute psychological stress" caused by, say, a job interview? Well, it turns out that can alter your genetic code too, according to a new study from Translational Psychiatry, which noted that the brain produces fewer receptors after a mock interview. Such a result can lead to cognitive damage. The transformation in receptor output was traced back to the oxytocin receptor, which has been nicknamed the "love" or "trust" hormone. That doesn't bode well for the many millions of job hunters.
So What's The Solution?The Mayo Clinic recommends that people with chronic stress try yoga. Overwhelmed by anxiety and just the stress of managing her adult life, one writer for The New York Times wrote about trying bikram yoga, which involves contorting your body in a tropically warm environment.
At first, she said it had the effect of making her stressful thoughts go "quiet." Convinced she'd found the answer, she applied an investment banker's intensity to the Buddhist practice, and would do two sessions in one day after days when she had too much work to practice her postures. The end result? A new form of anxiety to make sure she kept to her Bikram schedule, and the conclusion she should stop looking for quick fix solutions.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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