Stress - a fact of life?

2003

New research from health campaigners the Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP) reveals that more than three quarters of us (77 per cent) believe that work-related stress is a fact of life and the majority (55 per cent) also think that it’s up to the individual to deal with it.

A quarter (26 per cent) of people also said they would not be likely to speak to anyone about their work-related stress.

The DPP research comes as part of the launch of a new campaign to help people recognise and manage their stress, especially work-related stress. Work related illness or illness made worse by work are estimated to have cost 32.9 million lost working days over the past 12 months. Helping people to manage their stress and raising employers’ awareness of measures they can take to relieve work-related stress is a primary aim of the campaign.

Occupational physician, Dr David Beaumont, said that work-related stress can be defined as being “the perception of a situation at work with which an individual feels unable to cope, and which they feel is outside their control. The solutions usually lie within the workplace, rather than the GP surgery, and often going off sick and worrying at home makes matters worse.”

Dr Simon Fradd, Chairman of the DPP, agrees: “The role of the occupational health department and personnel cannot be emphasised more as an excellent source of advice and support for people experiencing stress at work.”

“Employees need to feel they are able to approach their employer to talk about work-related stress.” Fradd added. “Clearly some employees are more likely to do this than others and men would seem to be particularly reluctant (30 per cent said they would not be likely to speak to anyone about their work-related stress).”

Over a third (35 per cent) of people who responded to the DPP poll said that having a break from work such as a bank holiday is the best way to deal with work-related stress. The DPP campaign aims to raise awareness amongst employers of the levels of work-related stress and the kinds of things they can do to reduce it.

As part of the campaign, the DPP has produced a ‘Note for Employers’ that it is hoped will raise employers’ awareness of any problems there may be in their organisation.

According to Dr Chris Manning, a member of the National Mental Health Taskforce, “anxiety, depression, burn-out, alcohol and substance misuse are all on the increase as people try to bridge the gap between external pressures and their brains' ability to cope with them. It is up to us all as individuals, employers and a society to place the highest possible premium on looking after our minds. The figures associated with not doing so speak for themselves".

How to recognise stress
Individuals vary in how much stress they can experience before it has an effect on their health. Stress can have a negative effect both physically and emotionally. Some general signs to look out for which may mean someone is stressed include:

  • fatigue
  • mood swings
  • skin problems
  • muscle tension
  • disturbed sleep patterns
  • low self esteem
  • anxiety
  • poor concentration
  • changes in eating patterns
  • poor memory/ forgetfulness.
The DPP's 'Dealing with Stress' leaflets are available through DPP member GP surgeries or on-line at www.dpp.org.uk.

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