It is the curse of the modern world. Too much to do and too little time to do it. And now researchers have demonstrated its harmful effect on health.
A survey of young people in their early thirties has found those in high-stress jobs run twice the risk of suffering serious depression or anxiety as those in lower-stress occupations.
Top of the stress league are men who are head chefs in big restaurants and construction workers under pressure to complete a building on time. They are six times more likely to buckle under stress, researchers report.
Theirs are the most stressful jobs because, in addition to working to deadlines in an environment where failure is publicly visible, they face hard physical labour every day in extremes of heat or cold and frequently without encouragement or support.
Least stressful were those jobs which involved looking after children at home, where there are no deadlines to meet, greater flexibility and no fear of public failure.
Time pressure is the single most important cause of stress and of the illness to which it leads, the researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London say. Physical conditions at work, boredom and relations with bosses and colleagues mattered less.
Overall, more than one in 20 cases of depression or anxiety annually is attributable to high stress at work, causing individual suffering and imposing a substantial burden on the health service and the economy, they say.
The survey, conducted for one year among 1,000 people aged 32 in a wide range of occupations, found 15 per cent of those in high-stress jobs suffered a first episode of clinical depression or anxiety during that year, compared with 8 per cent in low-stress jobs. Women were generally worse affected than men. People who had previously suffered depression or anxiety and those with "negative" personalities who were more likely to complain were eliminated from the study.
Maria Melchior, an epidemiologist at the Medical Research Council's Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre at King's, said: "Even at the beginning of their careers, we can see the effects of stress. It appears to bring on diagnosable forms of depression and anxiety in previously healthy young workers. It is very important these detrimental effects should be prevented."
She added: "There are ways of reducing stress through the organisation of the workplace and through interventions with individuals who can be taught how to cope with demanding jobs."
Source - Independent