TheNational hamburger logo

Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 January 2021

Job stress might be killing you

Stress can kill you, literally. A recent study from Harvard and Stanford Business School revealed that health problems caused by stress, such as high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, kill 120,000 Americans every year.
Tim Garrett, the founder of Corporate Wellness Company, left, and Natasha Valentine watch fellow Aramex manager Hani Hamdan do some exercises. Victor Besa for The National
Tim Garrett, the founder of Corporate Wellness Company, left, and Natasha Valentine watch fellow Aramex manager Hani Hamdan do some exercises. Victor Besa for The National

Numerous studies have shown that the workplace is the largest source of stress in people’s lives. And according to a 2015 paper from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools, workplace stress can have a major effect on mortality.

The study found the many health problems caused by job stress, such as high blood pressure and mental health issues, kill about 120,000 people in the United States every year.

“Our bodies thrive on pressure. They can manage pressure, as long as that pressure is within our control. It is fine. It gives you the drive. It gives you the motivation to get up in the morning and do things,” says Carole Spiers, a stress guru with clients in the UAE.

“It’s when the pressure gets too much and it’s excessive pressure, that’s when it starts turning into stress. At that point stress is not good for you. It does affect your health. It affects your well-being. It affects your sleep pattern. It affects you in physiological ways, heart palpitations, lying awake, can’t get back to sleep again. Anything like that, being angry or irritable. And obviously it affects you physically, as well.”

Ms Spiers says you might be able to get away with the effects of stress for a short time, but it eventually catches up with you.

Tim Garrett, the founder of Corporate Wellness Company in Dubai, says stress lies at the root cause of any disease. “The cells are being broken down. The body is not getting a chance to rest and repair, and that whole host of degeneration just dovetails from there.”

So what can we do about it?

“Of course there is all the lifestyle stuff that you can do, so carving out enough time to balance the body. Doing something that you enjoy. Doing something that helps you rest and get good quality sleep at the right time,” says Mr Garrett.

Nutrition is also important, as it helps your body to stop breaking down further.

A good diet includes having enough cholesterol in your diet, which can be protective, and usable fruit sugars, particularly those which contain a high amount of potassium, says Mr Garrett. Vitamins like vitamin K and calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D and vitamin E are also important, he adds.

q&a overworking is a disease

Gillian Duncan expands on the effects of stress on your lifespan:

Can stress and overwork really kill you?

In Japan, where workers record an average of 47 hours of overtime a month, the potential life-limiting effects of stress are so problematic that there is an actual diagnosis for it, karoshi. It means “death from overwork” and it was first recognised as an official cause of death in the 1980s,when a number of previously healthy high-ranking business people in Japan died in their prime. The major causes are heart attack and stroke. By the late 1980s, the government began to publish official statistics on the problem. A record number of people, 1,456, died from the condition in the year ending March 2015, according to the latest labour ministry data.

How is it decided?

To be considered a victim of karoshi, a person who dies from a cardiovascular-related condition must have worked at least 100 hours of overtime the month previously. But suicides are also considered if the victim worked 160 hours’ overtime or more in one month or more than 100 hours for three months in a row. If they were found to have died as a result of karoshi, the victim’s family is entitled to compensation.

What is being done about the problem?

The government is considering placing limits on overtime to protect workers, but it has not done so yet. Some companies have introduced upper limits, including Toyota, which now prevents its workers from clocking up more than 360 hours’ overtime a year.

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Published: May 18, 2016 04:00 AM

Editor's Picks
Sign up to:
Most Read