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How Work Stress Can Hurt You in a Big Way


Everyone has experienced some level of stress caused by work. Whether you’re anxious over deadlines, or positively run ragged by fears over losing your health insurance, your high level of stress can have big repercussions. Not only can work stress affect your ability to do your job, it can impact your physical health as well.

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Image Credit: Alan Cleaver/Flickr

One Stress Can Feed Another

Research published by professors at Stanford and Harvard points out that work stress has real costs: “Workplace stress — such as long hours, job insecurity and lack of work-life balance — contributes to at least 120,000 deaths each year and accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs.”

The Top Stressors

Researchers focused on these factors that can affect people in the workplace:

  • Lack of insurance
  • Shift work
  • Long hours
  • Job insecurity
  • Work-family conflict
  • Low job control
  • High job demands
  • Low social support
  • Organizational injustice

Get a Handle on Stress…Or Else

The American Heart Association notes that stress affects us all differently, but there is a connection between stress and a variety of health problems.

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“When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure, also called hypertension, to asthma to ulcers to irritable bowel syndrome,” said Ernesto L. Schiffrin, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief at Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital, and professor and vice chair of research for the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.

Heart disease is no joke, but it’s often overlooked as something that can be affected by stress. Though the AHA notes they’re still researching how stress directly affects our hearts, they say that we often try to “cope” with stress by doing bad things to our bodies.

For example, ever get upset and feel your heart start to race as your blood pressure increases? That’s a pretty common bodily reaction to a stressful environment (you might know it as the “fight or flight” response).

Now imagine that you work long hours, don’t get enough exercise because you’re chained to your desk, eat lousy because you work through meals and grab fast food (and alcohol) more than you should, you don’t sleep over worrying about work, and do this same routine day after day. You can see what that might do to your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and general physical health. Bad stuff, right?

The bottom line is that too much stress at work can affect you in both the long- and short-term, impacting both your career and your life outside the office.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you deal with work stress? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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