London: Stress has become the most common cause of long-term sick leave in Britain, a new survey has revealed.
Experts say that the psychological condition has become so widespread that it is now the ‘21st century equivalent of the Black Death’.
Stress has even eclipsed stroke, heart attack, cancer and back problems, according to the report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Jill Miller, an adviser to the institute, says the report “highlights the heightened pressure many people feel under in the workplace as a result of the prolonged economic downturn”.
Stress was found to be especially common at firms that have announced redundancies.
Long-term absence is defined as taking four weeks or more off at one time because of sickness.
Professor Cary Cooper, who is based at the Lancaster University management school, said stress was signalled by changes in behaviour.
Typically, these include finding it difficult to focus, losing your sense of humour or losing your temper more quickly than normal
In later stages, stress can manifest itself in over-eating or under-eating as well as smoking or drinking to excess.
Short periods of it are manageable, but it can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease or stomach and bowel problems, if it persists.
“Given the fact we are in a downturn, workers have an intrinsic job insecurity. There are fewer workers doing more work,” the Daily Mail quoted Cooper as saying.
“People are suffering from presenteeism [working long hours simply to impress the boss], which affects their home life.
“Stress is the 21st century equivalent of the Black Death,” he added.
The most common causes of stress for workers are an excessive workload, the management style of a boss, restructuring in the workplace, and problems at home, the report said.