Stress is top cause of workplace sickness

Stress has become the most common reason for employees to be signed off with long-term sickness

Dubbed the Black Death of the 21st century, experts say stress has eclipsed strokes, heart attacks and back problems as the top cause of workplace sickness.

A report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development says stress was found to be especially common at firms that have announced redundancies in the economic downturn, with long-term sick leave defined as taking four weeks off at one time.

Co-author of the book The Science of Occupational Health makes an important distinction between pressure and stress, suggesting the former is stimulating and motivating but becomes stressful when it exceeds your ability to cope.

Professor Cooper from Lancaster University management school says stress typically manifests itself in a difficulty to focus, a loss of sense of humour and feeling agitated. In later stages, stress can lead to over or under eating, smoking and drinking.

‘Given the fact we are in a downturn, workers have an intrinsic job insecurity,’ says Professor Cooper. ‘There are fewer workers doing more work.’

The CIPD report shows that the typical worker has 7.7 days off a year due to sickness, but state workers who make up one in five of the workforce take 9.1 days.

Bernard Brown, a partner at KPMG, further warned that the jobs market is set to nose dive, suggesting: ‘It’s only a matter of time before we move from a growth position to one of a contracting jobs market.’

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