How Does Workplace Stress Harm Your Health?

Workplace and financial stress can have a damaging impact on your health and wellbeing. Don’t believe me? I have two studies to prove it. According to researchers from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, who are responsible for both studies, as the economy sputters along, companies need to consider corporate wellness and stop-smoking programmes to tackle the impacts of workplace stress.


The first study, which was published online in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that, if you’re a smoker, you’re likely to smoke more when conflict from work affects your home life. While this was true for both men and women, the opposite was also true for women; they smoked more when home conflict affected their work. For the second study, this time published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, the researchers examined the health behaviours of nearly 4,000 men and women before and after the recession began in 2008. While most of the study participants’ health behaviours had improved as the recession set in, this was not the case for those who reported financial struggles.


According to Jon Macy, lead author of both studies and assistant professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, ‘There’s growing evidence that work-family conflict is related to a range of negative health behaviours, and it’s something for workplace wellness programmes to take into consideration when they’re trying to get employees to engage in healthier behaviours, whether it’s physical activity, nutrition or quitting smoking.’


The first study ‘The association between work-family conflict and smoking quantity among daily smokers,’ is unique because it examined the behaviour of smokers, rather than whether or not someone smoked. Macy commented, ‘Wellness programmes are becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace. If a programme is going to deal with smoking, given how difficult it is for people to quit, it might be more successful by looking at some of the underlying issues. Our findings suggest that work-home conflict is one area that should be looked at and addressed in cessation counselling.’


For the study “Predictors of health behaviours after the economic downturn: a longitudinal study”, the participants were asked whether they looked at food labels to determine food’s health value, how often they chose what to eat based on food’s health value, how frequently they exercised vigorously, if they always wore seatbelts and whether they smoked. The researchers examined the relationship between these behaviours and three work-related factors; change in work hours, change in employment status and financial strain. Macy explained, ‘those most affected by the recession, those with the most financial strain, were least likely to abstain from smoking, to exercise or to engage in healthy eating behaviours.’

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