Work-related stress increases in recession

One in four workers experience work-related stress in times of recession - and work-related stress increases by 40 per cent overall, according to new research.

A study, published in the journal Occupational Medicine, also found that the number of staff taking time off due to job stress increased by 25 per cent during an economic downturn and the total time off due to these types of psychological problems increased by more than a third.

The study, undertaken by researchers at The University of Nottingham and University of Ulster, questioned 17,000 civil servants in Northern Ireland. It compared the findings of two surveys: the first was conducted in 2005 prior to the onset of the recession, and the second in 2009 after the economy had been severely hit.

Scientists assessed how exposed respondents were to the pressures of work by looking at areas such as the demands of the job, control over work and the support they felt they had from managers. They also measured workers perceptions of how stressed they were at work and how much time they had taken off because of work related stress. The findings show the importance of focusing on looking after workers’ mental health and well-being during difficult economic times.

Society member Dr Jonathan Houdmont, of The University of Nottingham’s Institute of Work, Health and Organisations, was the study’s lead author.

Dr Houdmont said: "We were fortunate to have access to staff survey data collected before the emergence of initial signs of a forthcoming recession and again four years later at the height of the recession.

"The stark differences in the responses given at these two time points clearly show that national economic crises can have substantial implications for workers’ health and organisational performance. The findings suggest that those organisations which seek to reduce work-related stress during austere economic times are likely to experience lower staff absence and greater productivity."

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