Work Stress


1.0 Introduction

Throughout the eighties and into the nineties, work stress have continued to
rise dramatically in organizations across North America. The eighties saw
employees stressing out from working in a rapidly growing economy. During the
nineties, beginning from the recession of 1992 till present day, employees are
stressed by their own job insecurities in the face of massive downsizing and
restructuring of organizations in order to be competitive on the global stage.
Work stress is a very extensive topic ranging from research on the sources of
stress, the effects of stress, to ways on managing and reducing stress. This
report will focus first on the evidence for the harmful effects of stress at
work, both mentally and physically. The last section will briefly explain why
management should be concerned with rising employee stress and will describe
some actions management can take to alleviate work stress.

2.0 Harmful Effects of Stress

Most research studies indicate a high correlation between stress and illness.
According to authorities in the United States and Great Britain, as much as 70%
of patients that are treated by general practitioners are suffering from
symptoms originating from stress . Everyone experiences stress, however, each
person responds to stress very differently. Their response is dependent on how
each person reacts to stress emotionally, mentally, and physically. There are,
however, common effects of stress for most people on the physical and mental
body.

2.1 Physical Effects

The researcher Blyth in 1973 identified a list of diseases which have a fairly
high causal relationships with stress. His evidence was obtained through
interviews with medical experts, review of reports by the World Health
Organization and consultations with the J.R. Geigy Pharmaceutical Company. The
following is a list of some of the illnesses Blyth had identified :

1. Hypertension 2. Coronary thrombosis 3. Hay fever and other allergies 4.
Migraine headaches 5. Intense itching 6. Asthma 7. Peptic ulcers 8. Constipation
9. Rheumatoid arthritis10. Colitis11. Menstrual difficulties 12. Nervous
dyspepsia 13. Overactive thyroid gland 14. Skin disorders 15. Diabetes
mellitus16. Tuberculosis

Research conducted by Woolfolk and Richardson in 1978 further confirmed Blyth\'s
list that hypertension, coronary disease, infections, and ulcers are highly
related to the amount of prolonged stress an employee is subjected to. Evidence
for a causal relationship between hypertension and stress was seen in a study of
air traffic controllers. The work stress is enormous for this occupation due to
the high responsibility for the safety of others that people is this field must
bear. This study noted that air traffic controllers experiences a hypertension
rate approximately 5 times greater than other comparable occupational groups .


Only in recent studies was stress linked to coronary disease. As the majority
of heart attacks are caused by fatty substances adhering to the artery walls
(arteriosclerosis), stress is a causal factor in that, at high levels, the
amounts of the two fatty substances, cholesterol and triglycerides, in the blood
steam are elevated. This is evidenced in one study of tax accountants. As the
deadline for the annual tax filing drew nearer, cholesterol levels rose without
decreasing until 2 months later. The situation here shows that cholesterol in
the blood rises gradually with constant exposure to stress.

There is also strong evidence for the causal relationship between stress and
infectious disease. Woolfolk was able to show that employees that are very
fatigue (a symptom of stress) were more susceptible to infections. In his
study conducted upon 24 woman during the flu season, every woman was
administered a certain amount of flu virus into their blood stream. Woman in
the group who were fatigued were administered a smaller dose than those who were
not. Woolfolk found that the women who had just gone through very stressful
experiences were more susceptible to the infection despite a very small dosage
of the flu virus. The other women who were not tired did not get infected even
though they had considerably high dosages of flu virus in them .

Lastly, evidence that ulcers are associated with high stress levels have been
conclusively proven by Woolfolk. Ulcers occur when digestive juices burn a hole
in the stomach lining. A person under stress or anxiety would stimulate the
rapid secretion of digestive juices into the stomach. Thus, when a person is
subjected to constant tension and frustration, he / she has a high likelihood
that an ulcer would occur. Evidence for this was provided by the study
performed by Dr. Steward Wolf. He was able to monitor activities of a patient
stomach, and where the patient responded to an emotional situation, he observed
the excessive secretion of stomach acids. Woolfolk and Richardson further the
studies by showing increased levels