April 12, 2007

Depression and anxiety a ‘silent epidemic’ in the workplace

Millions of UK workers are likely to be suffering from depression and panic attacks because they are so stressed out by their jobs, new research has suggested.

The latest 24-7 survey — a research project conducted by the Work Life Balance Centre and the universities of Keele, Coventry and Wolverhampton — found that two thirds of employees have been made ill by work, with 48% of these suffering from depression, and 43% suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.

Eight in ten of those asked have a problem juggling the competing demands of work and home, while the same amount feel that at times they cannot cope with the demands placed upon them.

Women (69.6%) were even more likely to feel this way than men (63%) although both figures have increased in the last 12 months.

Long hours could be one reason for such stress. The survey found that many people work over their contracted hours (one in ten does a minimum of 49 hours a week, while only one in 100 is contracted to do so). Most do so to keep up with their workloads. A third of employees resent these long hours, and more than a quarter miss family and social occasions for work.

On a positive note more than half of workers ensure work does not dominate their lives, feel more fulfilled when busy and enjoyed the challenges of their jobs. Despite the higher stress levels, women generally feel more positive about work than men. Almost three quarters of bosses are sympathetic to time off or changes to work schedules to help deal with family or caring responsibilities.

Julie Hurst, Director of the Work Life Balance Centre says:

"Our relationship with work continues to be a complex one. On the one hand people have reported many positives about enjoying their jobs. At the same time however the levels of depression and anxiety have been increasing. Depression and anxiety have become a silent epidemic in the workplace and yet there is so much that can be done to reduce both problems. I would urge all employers to look carefully at these issues and arrange access to the appropriate forms of help, as it is in the long term interests of the business to support healthy, and ultimately productive, employees. At the most basic level having employees absent through these illnesses costs an organisation far more than it does to provide the proper support to help them get back on their feet and back to work. And that is without even considering the humanitarian case."

Stress has become a problem for employers that cannot be ignored; especially considering the number of high pay out cases there have been in the past few years. For example, in one recent case an employee was awarded £140,000 because of excessive workload resulting from the need to cover for absent colleagues.

As well as the problems of absence and under performance, there is no limit to the compensation that employees can get from a finding of negligence against employers. Employers owe their employees both specific duties under heath and safety legislation and a common law duty to take reasonable care to ensure their health and safety. If an employee can show that they suffered from stress related ill health and his employer could or ought to have foreseen and prevented it, the employer could be found to be negligent.

Recent joint CIPD/HSE research has suggested that a manager’s behaviour can have a major impact on employees’ stress levels affecting the wellbeing of employees and organisational performance. New guidance has been launched to help employers tackle these issues. The new guidance draws on 19 key management behaviours that play a vital role in preventing, identifying, and tackling stress effectively. The behaviours have been used to create a framework enabling line managers to work on the skills required to reduce and prevent stress at work.

From: http://www.workplacelaw.net


Anonymous said...

Is there anybody who knows how I can find the statistic (University by University) about stress and depression?

Also I am interested to know if there is a database reporting how much (if any!!) Universities have been fined by the Health and Safety Executive for not caring about stress and depression.


ps: Health and Safety executive Mr. Ratty has confirmed that soon investigation will be carried out at the University of Wolverhampton for issues relate to stress, depression, bullying leading to depression. If you please would like to witness events or if you are suffering or suffered of depression / stress due to bullying, workloads or for other reasons, please discretely visit the yahoo groups bullied_academics. Soon I will introduce a topic in which you can discretely read the happenings of the investgation and share your experiences to help bring evidence to the investigation.

Stuart said...

I am reasonably certain that there is no source of comparable stress and depression data. I am not aware that the Health and Safety Executive has fined ANY educational institute, although I believe they have fined at least two hospital trusts over workplace stress. You could go through the HSE search results at:


You could also look for judgments in the County and High Courts (http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/judgments.htm), House of Lords (http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199697/ldjudgmt/ldjudgmt.htm?) and EAT (http://www.employmentappeals.gov.uk/), and http://www.bailii.org/ for combined searches.

It is simple but tedious job that could be easily achieved by a stone soup collective.