Work Stress Leads to Illness – Boston Globe

As the author of several books about stress and mental well-being and performance, I wanted to share this great article in the Boston Globe today, “Workplace Stress is Making Us Sick. Can We Hold Bosses Responsible” – full article is HERE and some of the highlights are pasted below (in italics)…

Very few people fully understand the detrimental effects of chronic stress on mental well-being and physical health – but some are waking up to the fact that we can naturally modulate our own stress response, improve our mental fitness, and enhance our resilience (so we can handle more stress nd actually thrive in the face of it).

Article Highlights…

Dysfunctional jobs can take an enormous toll on what you think of yourself, how you perform at work, and even how you behave when you’re (theoretically) disconnected.

But Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford School of Business, argues that work is exacting an even greater price than we realize. More than 100,000 Americans die each year from adverse workplace conditions, he says. And many more become sick.

“I think we are on an unsustainable path. I think we were on an unsustainable path pre-pandemic. The pandemic’s made everything worse, and something’s got to give,” he says.

Of course, many of us internalize our stress, hide it, compartmentalize it, and assume we can recharge on the weekends. We think of the stress as our fault: Maybe things would be better if we took up running? Or learned more about mindfulness? Or acupuncture? That sort of blame is absolutely backwards. The onus should be on employers…

“Thirty-six percent of workers are working excessive long hours,” said the UN’s Manal Azzi, “meaning more than 48 hours per week… People are increasingly asked to produce more and more, they have no time to rest.” (If you, like me, are thinking “48 hours? That doesn’t seem like a big deal,” we are precisely the reason that the American workforce is in such a sorry, overworked state.)

Decades of studies show that stressed-out people are more likely to “overeat, overdrink, smoke, take drugs… So, if you’re in pain, you’re going to take a drug. If you have stress, which is a form of psychological pain… you’re going to do something to numb the pain.”

Second, research has shown that stress has powerful effects on your central nervous system and can affect the regulation of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which, as the American Psychological Association has noted, “can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.” Studies have also linked high stress to colon, stomach, and lung cancer.

Jennifer Moss, author of “The Burnout Epidemic,” believes that the expectation that people field nonstop e-mails and show up for hours and hours of Zoom meetings is nuts. She recommends thanking people for not inviting you to a meeting. And she notes that burned-out workers are far more likely to go to the ER or call in sick.

…few people truly understand how much workplace stress impacts health, and he believes that America is considerably less attuned to the impact than many European countries.

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