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Which types of jobs are most stressful?

Job-related stress is a serious complaint for many workers, but it is also one of the few employment health issues which is commonly glossed over not only by management but also by employees themselves. Some accept stress as merely the cost of keeping up with the breakneck pace of their jobs, while others find themselves in an environment where stress is celebrated or even worn as a badge of honor by their co-workers.

Distribution and number of anxiety
Distribution and number of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases involving days away from work in private industry by occupation, 2001.1

This NIOSH chart from 2004 illustrates that some of the most stressful activities in the workplace are related to positions where employees must constantly interact either with customers or other staff members. This is clearly shown by the high rate of stress disorders amongst those in management and support positions.

Incidence rate of anxiety
Incidence rate of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases by private industry sector, 2001.2

When taking a cross-industry perspective, the effect of interaction with other people is once again apparent. Professions which regularly engage in direct contact with clients such as transportation and financial services organizations lead the way when it comes to reporting incidences of stress disorders. This is no doubt tied in to the fact that the pressures involved in both of these industries can bring out the worst aspects of human nature. In contrast, retail workers benefit from the relatively relaxed atmosphere within which they interact with customers and come in at almost half the number of stress disorder cases.

Annual rates of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder
Annual rates of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases involving days away from work by private industry sector, 1992-2001.3

Over a ten year period, it becomes clear that while workers in some industries have experienced extreme stress during specific periods of economic crisis, the overall trend is moving towards higher levels of stress in each sector of the economy. Given that in the worst case scenario, workplace stress can lead to serious health consequences such as heart attacks or other life-threatening complications4, it is important to consider implementing company policies which work towards reducing the amount of stress encountered by employees on a daily basis.

Stress might be a part of your working life, but it doesn’t have to be the defining factor in your career. Dealing with stress often depends on the individual, but there are some general techniques that seem to work for most people. Taking frequent breaks during the course of the day to cleanse your mind and refocus can help deal with feelings of being overwhelmed. Exercising can also better prepare the body to deal with stress, along with a healthy diet which will provide you with more energy. It can also be helpful to talk to a loved one or counselor if the stress you have to deal with seems insurmountable.

1 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid49.htm
2 NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid50.htm
3 NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid51.htm
4 Anapol Schwartz, n.d. Failure to Diagnose a Work Related Heart Condition. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.anapolschwartz.com/practices/heart_stress.shtml.

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