STRESS - THE SILENT KILLER; Analysis

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), November 7, 2001 | Go to article overview

STRESS - THE SILENT KILLER; Analysis


Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

IN Britain, 6.5 million working days are lost annually due to stress, costing employers pounds 370m.

On National Stress Awareness Day we find out how to beat a modern-day affliction.

PAY a visit to your local GP's waiting room and the chances are that a surprisingly high number of the patients will be seeking a remedy not for a bout of flu but for stress.

Statistics from the Association of Stress Management show that 80 per cent of the patients in doctors' waiting rooms are consulting their GPs for stress-related problems and illnesses.

It's no secret that fast-living, hectic family and social lives and long working hours are the unavoidable consequences of modern society.

But one of the best ways of beating stress is to take on a less stressful job - after all, work is where we spend most of our time.

An estimated 30,000 people in Wales claim to suffer from stress, depression or anxiety due to work, amounting to more than two people in every 100 according to the Health and Safety Executive.

In Britain, 6.5 million working days are lost annually due to stress, costing employers pounds 370m and the country pounds 3.75bn.

It is a problem recognised by the HSE, which wants to reduce days lost due to work-related stress by 30 per cent by 2010.

It has released a guide to improving health in the workplace and dealing with stressed-out employees.

Elizabeth Gyngell, of the HSE, said: "Work-related stress in Wales inflicts a heavy toll both in financial cost and human suffering and managers have a key role to play in reducing this toll.

"We recognise there is considerable pressure in the competitive modern workplace, but there is a difference between the buzz people get from doing a busy job and staff simply being unable to cope with the strains placed on them.

"Stress in itself is not a disease but if it is not dealt with early enough it can manifest itself in physical symptoms.

"Our guidance is the first step towards producing management standards that will establish benchmarks for measuring employers' performance in preventing workrelated stress and will make enforcing stress-related health and safety offences easier."

The most stressful jobs are those in the public sector, with teaching leading the way.

Gethin Lewis, secretary of teachers' trade union NUT Cymru, said: "The NUT has always considered stress as one of the biggest problems facing teachers today.

"It is something the Government must take on board if it hopes to keep the teachers it has, let alone recruit new ones. Teachers work excessively long hours and the Government itself has recognised most teachers work between 50 and 60 hours a week, with headteachers working even more than that."

Mr Lewis added that teachers are bogged down in bureaucracy and paperwork, they have to deal with changes in the curriculum and class sizes at junior and secondary level are going up. …

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