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New Research Reveals Dramatic Rise in Stress Levels in Europe's Workplaces

Originally Published - 29 July 1999

New research by Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics, at the University of Warwick and David Blanchflower, Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College in the US, reveals that stress levels are rising sharply across Europe's workplaces. In research to be presented at a conference in New Hampshire, USA, in early August, they document new results from a study of 7500 randomly sampled workers from 16 European countries. People were interviewed about changes over the last five years in their workplaces and jobs. They were also given a standard psychological health test - recording feelings of strain, lost sleep, and depression.

Half of the workers in the study report that stress and responsibility levels in their jobs have risen significantly over the preceding five years. Only one in ten report lower amounts of stress. For 40% of people, there has been no change.

Information was also gathered on the level of supervision people experienced. One quarter of European workers are now supervised more closely. 62% report no change. For 12% of workers, the tightness of supervision has declined in the last five years.

Approximately half of Europe's workers lose sleep over worry, a fifth sometimes feel they "are a worthless person", and a third admit to losing confidence in themselves. Feelings of strain and unhappiness are fairly common. Some countries and sectors fair worse than others. Evidence that working life has become more stressful is found disproportionately among: the young, women, those with long job tenure, people employed in large workplaces, and employees in the finance, transport, communications, and real estate sectors. There are also differences by nation. The countries and regions experiencing the largest rises in stress are Eastern Germany, Greece, Italy and Great Britain. The lowest increases in stress are found in Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain. Professor Oswald comments:

"I think there is some reason for concern here. Stress levels are notoriously difficult to measure objectively - especially in a comparative way across nations - so we should be cautious before leaping to policy conclusions. Nevertheless, when working life for the bulk of European employees has got much more pressurised in just five years, and it has become easier for almost none, I do worry about exactly what is going on out there."

For further details please contact:

Professor Andrew Oswald, Department of Economics
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
Tel: 01203 523510 (Office), 01367 860005 (Home)
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