Blue-collar workers suffer most stress

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The Independent Online
STRESS is more likely to affect blue-collar workers and middle managers than boardroom executives, according to the first British survey to analyse its effects in a range of occupations, writes Helen Nowicka.

Early results of the study suggest that high levels of stress exist among people with low levels of job satisfaction, often those employed performing repetitive menial tasks.

Middle managers also showed symptoms of stress such as aggressive behaviour, headaches and frequent colds, often triggered by concerns over job security, and, in firms where redundancies had occurred, higher workloads. By contrast, high- flying professionals have greater control over their working lives and can determine how much pressure to put themselves under.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, who analysed the research, said the findings reflected his belief that stress is was not an executive disease but 'more shop floor than top floor'.

According to Professor Cooper, many teachers and health service workers are also suffering from stress because of the pressures of adapting to sweeping changes.

The three-year study was carried out by Ritsa Fotinatos, one of Professor Cooper's students. She surveyed 3,000 people working in 67 occupations in Darlington, Co Durham, where demographics, health trends and educational achievements closely mirror the national picture. Jobs never before monitored for stress, such as owning a corner shop, and being an undertaker, were included.

Ms Fotinatos found employees were happiest during their first year in a job when they were unfamiliar with the organisation's weaknesses, and overall under-25s tended to be most enthusiastic. People worked an average 39-hour week, but among managers and health professionals it was 60.

Stress levels were lower among men than women, who faced additional pressures from working in male-dominated environments, then performing domestic duties. However, women were largely protected from the consequences of excessive stress by their more sophisticated 'coping strategies'. Professor Cooper believes women are increasingly unwilling to accept their dual role as worker and housewife.