Almost 30 percent of workers admit to experiencing near-constant work-related stress. And two new studies provide chilling details on just how damaging those negative feelings can be.
While psychological stress has long been suggested as a culprit in the development of type-2 diabetes, nothing had been proven. Until now.
Men under a heavy load of work stress have a 45 percent higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes than their easier-going counterparts. That was the conclusion of Swedish scientists who tracked over 7,000 initially healthy men for 35 years. Interestingly, the link between stress and diabetes held true even after the researchers accounted for physical inactivity, BMI, and blood pressure.
Suspected mechanisms include stress-related inflammation and the many unhealthy behaviors that people seek when stressed, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and poor diet, which underlines the importance of preventive measures.
In the second study from the Gerontology Research Center in Finland, researchers found that work-related stress in middle-aged men and women leads to disability in old age.
People who reported feeling overwhelmed by their careers in midlife had more difficulties performing the basic activities of daily living while in their 70s. Examples included problems bathing and dressing, shopping, coping with light housework, handling financial matters, taking medication, and using the telephone.
Additionally, the high-stressed group were unable to walk a mile. People who only occasionally felt stress symptoms in midlife also saw a decline in quality of life, but not as severe a drop-off.
It’s possible that the chronic activation of stress responses in the body may result in the wear and tear of people’s physical and mental abilities, speculate the researchers.
The Bottom Line
When at home, try detaching yourself electronically from the office and place all of your focus on recovery, whether you’re playing with your kids, reading a book, exercising, or seeing friends. Otherwise, those on-the-job pressures will take over your home and your health, according to research out of Kansas State University, which looked at the impact of smartphone and tablet use on workers’ home lives.
“If there are any unpleasant text messages or emails from work-related people—such as a boss, co-worker, clients, customers, or contractors—you may be more likely to ruminate about work-related issues or worries,” says the study’s lead author. “It will affect your feelings and behaviors at home, which could further influence people at home.”
Those who are able to unplug experience lower levels of fatigue and job burnout, while also becoming more engaged during business hours.
Read "How to Reduce Job Stress" for more strategies to manage stress and stay productive.