Long-term effects of work related stress

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Work-related stress is an increasingly common issue in the Australian workforcei, with a recent survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society finding that 34 per cent of Australians identified issues in the workplace as a source of stressii. While the causes of stress may differ, there are relatively simple strategies you can use to manage or reduce it in order to avoid the long term effects.

Work-related stress is common across all employment sectors and occupational levels.

Causes of work-related stress

One of the most common causes of work-related stress is the level of demand that stems from a heavy workload, a high level of responsibility, or insufficient time to complete allocated tasks. Demands can also play upon emotional and personal factors. From feeling unable to maintain a 'work/life' balance to being on the receiving end of workplace bullying or harassment, it can be difficult not to take work-related issues personally. Unsupportive managers, role ambiguity and interpersonal conflict are also common causes of work-related stressii.

The presence of just one of these factors is enough to lead a person to feel stressed, uncomfortable and dissatisfied in their role. Whether you're a labourer being pressured to take on more than your body can handle, or an accountant that isn't being acknowledged or rewarded for all the extra work you put in to meet your targets, workplace stress can take a serious toll on your health and wellbeing in the long term if it isn't addressed properly.

The long-term impacts

Every person who suffers from work-related stress will feel a varying degree of impact upon their health, wellbeing and more broadly, their relationships and life at home. While some people feel a lower sense of morale, moodiness or job dissatisfaction, others develop more serious heath conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and recurring headaches as a resultii.

The impacts of work-related stress can also begin to manifest in other areas of your life. You might find that it impacts your relationships with family or causes you to withdraw from activities you would normally engage in, such as sport and other hobbies. It can also lead to increased absenteeism and reduced performance and engagement in the workplaceii.

In a report released by Safe Work Australia in 2013, it was found that mental stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per yeariii. In order to combat the costly effects of stress in the workplace, both employers and employees should familiarise themselves with strategies to prevent and manage work-related stress.

Listening to music can help to alleviate stress at work.

Dealing with work-related stress

Employers can take a proactive approach to prevent work-related stress from occurring in the first place. Ensuring that staff are adequately trained, providing a safe and comfortable work environment, or improving communication with staff are all examples of actions that can be taken to improve the workplace and prevent staff from encountering unnecessarily stressful situationsii.

If an employee is already affected by work-related stress, employers can assist by offering options for occupational rehabilitation services, counselling or employee assistance programs (EAP)ii,iv.

If you or someone you know has been affected by work-related stress, here are a few simple solutions to deal with the impactsi:

iBetter Health Channel 2012, Work-related stress, viewed 12 February 2015,

iiAustralian Psychological Society 2013, Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2013, viewed 13 December 2014,

iiiSafe Work Australia 2013, Media Release: Mental stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year, 8 April, viewed 12 February 2015,

ivAustralian Government 2012, Employee assistance program providers, viewed 12 February 2015,

vHelpguide.org 2014, Stress management: how to reduce, prevent, and cope with stress, viewed 22 January 2015,