The Economic and Health Implications of Workplace Stress

The Economic and Health Implications of Workplace Stress


Did you know that about four in ten working adults, or 44% employees, said in response to a survey that their current job affected their overall health? In addition, more than four in ten people also mentioned that their job had a major impact on their family and social life, their weight issues, eating patterns and sleeping habits. This was found in a survey of working adults in the US, conducted jointly by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, National Public Radio (NPR) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Work-related stress among employees is known to have an adverse effect on their health, the well-being of their family as well as economic implications for the business and the nation as well.

Stress Impacts the Health of an Employee

  • Psychological Disorders – Depression and burnout, as a result of work-related stress, can have a negative impact on the health of a worker and can even affect personal relationships.  “It’s not just your body that is affected by stress, your relationships and overall life satisfaction are also significantly impacted,” says an expert at Nature’s Wellness.


  • Alcohol and Substance Abuse – The onset of depression, due to workplace stress, has also been known to act as a trigger for alcohol and substance abuse in an individual. Working erratic shift timings, putting in excessively long working hours, taking up more than one job and constant job insecurity are some of the main reasons that drive people towards becoming heavy drinkers and using drugs for the perceived ‘stress-relieving’ effects, which any physician will tell you is a false notion.


  • Chronic Diseases  –  Constant levels of stress, be it because of an inability to strike a perfect work-life balance or any other reason, can have long-term health complications, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.


How Workplace Stress Affects the Bottom Line

  • Economic Costs of Workplace Stress –  In the United States, an estimated one million workers are absent every day from work due to stress, according to survey findings published by The American Institute of Stress (AIS). The AIS goes on to report that this last-minute absenteeism tends to cost companies, on an average, around $602 per worker each year, which in the case of large companies could even reach $3.5 million annually.


  • Loss in Productivity –  It is interesting to note that loss in productivity is not only due to absenteeism but also occurs in the case of what is known as “presenteeism” or a situation where workers are reporting to work but are not working at their optimum levels because of stress-induced medical conditions like depression.


  • Workplace Injury –  Whether it is an individual’s inability to handle stress or the prevalence of stressful working conditions, it could lead to low levels of concentration and result in workplace injuries. In fact, in 2014 alone, there were more than 3 million work-related injuries and more than 4,800 occupational fatalities, costing the US exchequer a sum of $50 billion, according to Glorian Sorensen, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.


The AIS survey findings cited above estimate that the US economy loses over $300 billion annually on account of absenteeism, reduced productivity, workplace accidents, healthcare costs and workers’ compensation. It, therefore, becomes important for employees experiencing work stress and the company they are working for to work in tandem and find ways to lower stress through identifying the causes and working on solutions. This in turn would have a positive impact on the well-being of the employees and the financial health of the business.


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