A nation of stressed workers

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Research shows Australians are increasingly stressed at work and this is taking a huge toll on their mental and physical health.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) annual survey of the nation’s stress, released yesterday, shows Australians reported significantly lower levels of wellbeing and significantly higher levels of stress and distress than in 2012 and 2011.

Current stress is having at least some impact on the physical health of 75% of Australian workers and the mental health of 68% of workers.

Worryingly, one in seven working Australians reported depressive symptoms in the severe to extremely severe range.

Stress does not just impact the individual – figures show stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia.

The survey data should prompt a widespread review into methods of dealing with workplace stress, and find out why workers are increasingly feeling this way, says APS executive director Professor Lyn Littlefield.

"Work-related stress is a problem that not only affects the health and wellbeing of employees, but also workplace productivity. Stress can occur in a wide range of situations, but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues or little control over their work.”

A total of 1548 people completed the online survey, which included questions on job satisfaction, work-life balance, how interesting and stressful a job is, appropriateness of salary, and likelihood of unemployment.

Since starting this annual survey in 2011, APS has seen a significant decline in workplace wellbeing in just two years, said Littlefield.  Almost half of working Australians rated issues in the workplace as a source of stress.

Findings included:

  • Only half of working Australians reported their employer valued their contribution and cared about their wellbeing
  • Working women were more likely than working men to report they felt valued and supported to do their job
  • Fifty per cent said their employer supports staff with mental health issues
  • Young working Australians (18-35) were more concerned than older working Australians about being able to pay for essential needs because of uncertainty about ongoing work availability
  • Almost three-quarters of Australians reported stress was having at least some impact with almost one in five reporting stress was having a strong to very strong impact on their physical health
  • In 2013, 65% of Australians reported current stress was affecting their mental health, as opposed to 60% in 2012