Stress Is Just As Deadly As Secondhand Smoke, Says New Report

Stress. We know that it’s not good for us, but did you ever wonder just how bad it is? A new research study says that stress at work is indeed quite bad.

Very bad.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and Stanford University performed a meta-analysis of 228 prior studies that examined the effects of 10 workplace stressors. The studies examined the effects of those stressors on both the physical and mental health of the employees, as well as those stressors effects on the employees’ morbidity and mortality rates.

Here are some of the facts the research team discovered after dissecting the data from the 228 studies.

The highest ranking stressor for employees is job insecurity. Workers who are freaked out about losing their jobs have an astonishingly 50 percent higher chance of developing a “physician diagnosed illness” than those employees that aren’t worried about losing their jobs.

Too much time spent at work, or long working hours and overtime are found to cause a significant 20 percent increase in mortality. Employees who felt they had to deal with “high job demands” were found to be 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a severe illness.

The authors of the study went on to elaborate that upon averaging out the negative effects of stress in the workplace, employee stress is just as harmful to the human body as secondhand smoke.

Joel Goh, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School commented on the research study data.

“When you think about how much time individuals typically spend at work, it’s not that surprising. People who believe in what they’re doing handle stress better than those who don’t. However, policy efforts to tackle the ever-increasing health costs and poor health outcomes in the United States have largely ignored the health effects of psychosocial workplace stressors such as high job demands, economic insecurity, and long work hours.”

The results of the study have now put a focus on what employers might be able to do to keep their employees healthy and more productive. An increasing number of employers have done great jobs at keeping their employees healthy from a physical standpoint, including programs that provide information about healthy living as well as co-opting in on gym memberships and the like. However, as wonderful as all of those programs are, it still doesn’t put any focus on the psychological problems — aka workplace stress — stemming from the workplace in the 21st Century.

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]