Stress consists of a pattern of “stone-age” reactions preparing the human body for fight or flight, i.e., for physical activity for survival. Stress was adequate when a stone-age man was facing a wolf pack, but not so when today’s worker is struggling to adjust to rotating shifts, highly monotonous and fragmented tasks or threatening, or overly demanding customers. It is often maladaptive and disease-provoking.
Health and wellbeing can be influenced by work – both positively (“spice of life”) and negatively (“kiss of death”).
Work can provide a goal and meaning to your life. It can give structure and content to your day, your week, your year, and your life. It can offer identity, self-respect, social support, and material rewards. This is more likely to happen when work demands are optimal, when workers are allowed to exercise a reasonable degree of autonomy, and when the climate of the organization is friendly and supportive. If this is so, work can be one of the most critical health-promoting factors in life.
If, however, work conditions are characterized by the opposite attributes, they are – at least in the long run – likely to cause ill health, accelerate its course, or trigger its symptoms.
Pathogenic mechanisms include:
- Emotional reactions (anxiety, depression, hypochondria, and alienation);
- Cognitive reactions (difficulty concentrating, remembering, learning new things, being creative, making decisions);
- Behavioural reactions (abuse of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco; destructive and self-destructive behaviour, and inhibitions about seeking and accepting the offer of therapy and rehabilitation); and
- Physiological reactions (neuroendocrine and immunological dysfunction).
Work-related stress and its causes and consequences are all widespread in the 28 European Union Member States.
Such work-related stressors are likely to have contributed to the present spectrum of ill health.
Sustained work-related stress is a significant determinant of depressive disorders. Such disorders are the fourth leading cause of the global disease burden.
- The World Health Organization (WHO), it is expected to rank second by 2020, behind ischaemic heart disease, but ahead of all other diseases;
- The International Labour Organisation (ILO), in the EU Member States, the cost of these and related mental health problems is estimated to be on average 3-4% of the GDP;
- The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work stress amounts to a loss of approximately €365 billion annually. It is further likely that sustained work-related stress is a significant determinant of metabolic syndrome, which contributes to ischemic heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Thus, virtually every aspect of work-related health and disease can be influenced by stress. This can also be mediated through emotional, and/or cognitive misinterpretation of conditions of work as threatening, even when they are not, and/or the occurrence of trivial bodily signs and symptoms as manifestations of severe disease.
All the abovementioned facts can lead to a wide variety of disorders, diseases, loss of wellbeing, and loss of productivity.
Examples discussed in some detail in the EU Guidance include ischemic heart disease, stroke, cancer, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal diseases, anxiety and depressive disorders, accidents, and suicides.
“We have found a solution! People in the EU will be able to use our Antistress Capsule technology to substantially reduce the stress, for free! We are looking forward to launching our first unit and see the results. Our preliminary research shows that we will be able to decrease stress levels to up to 96%, which is incredible. “
Roberto Hroval, Antistress Capsule project founder