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A challenging job can often be beneficial for employees: working to meet those challenges promotes growth and encourages resilience. However, jobs that demand too much from their employees may result in high stress that can exacerbate mental illness symptoms. In the incredible fast pace of today’s technological world, American workers are overwhelmed as work time bleeds into personal time, completely undeterred by any efforts to the contrary.

According to the 2014 Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, our jobs are the second most common source of stress. Sixty percent of adults report feeling that their jobs are very significant sources of stress, affecting us more severely than other forms of stress. Research from Morneau Shepell, a human resources company in Canada, found that workplace stress  was the top cause of mental health issues, followed by trauma. In order to promote positive mental health environments in the workplace, we are going to take a look at ways job stress can affect mental health.

Job stress as defined by the United States’ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.” A study from Northwestern National Life Insurance entitled “Employee Burnout: America’s Newest Epidemic” found that 40% of workers feel their jobs are extremely stressful, often leading to injuries and illnesses.

The demands of our careers, likely coupled with insufficient resources, can lead to stress that has detrimental effects on our mental health. Christopher McCarthy, a psychology professor and stress expert at the University of Texas–Austin, explains that job stress often occurs when there is an imbalance between resources, such as assets and skills, and demand.

Tight deadlines, increasing demands, and long hours can contribute to workers feeling worried, overwhelmed, or drained, having negative consequences for their mental health. Work stress also often occurs when there is a perceived imbalance between effort and reward: when employees feel that they put in a great deal of effort without adequate compensation or recognition, they may experience excessive stress and anxiety.

The negative mental health effects of job stress are often compounded when that stress trickles into workers’ personal lives. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that seven in ten adults feel that workplace stress has negative consequences for their personal relationships, especially with spouses. When job stress begins to infiltrate our personal lives, our mental health can be even more negatively affected.

Bullying and psychological harassment have been commonly reported causes of job stress for many years. Such abusive behavior can result in severe psychological issues for those subjected to it. The American Psychological Association published a study called “Workplace Incivility and Employee Sleep: The Role of Rumination and Recovery Experiences”, which investigated the negative consequences experienced by those harassed and bullied in the workplace. The authors of the study examined the correlation between bullying in the workplace and insomnia, a common symptom of many mental health disorders.

The study’s authors define workplace incivility as “the accumulation of thoughtless actions that leave employees feeling disrespected—intentionally ignored, undermined by colleagues, or publicly belittled by an insensitive manager.” The research showed that this kind of behavior in the workplace leads to adverse mental health effects; as we spend most of our days at work, hostility in the workplace has disastrous consequences for our emotional well-being.

The negative effects job stress has on our mental health are often exacerbated by physical risks. The Center for Workplace Mental Health, operated by the American Psychiatric Association, reports that excessive workplace stress causes 120,00 deaths per year. Recurrent job stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, causing damage to vital brain structures and circuitry that reduces our ability to cope with stress, reducing immune system functioning, and leading to increased inflammation.

When stress causes our bodies to go haywire, our emotions are quick to follow suit. This data was corroborated by a 2015 study from Harvard and Stanford Business Schools entitled “Workplace Stressors & Health Outcomes: Health Policy for the Workplace.” This study looked at 10 common job stressors such as lack of health insurance and long hours to find out how the mental effects of these forms of stress related to mortality. The research found that health problems caused by job stress, such as decreased mental health, can lead to serious fatal conditions, making job stress more deadly than diabetes or the flu.

Contact Brain Forest Centers!

You don’t have to let job stress control your life. At Brain Forest Centers, helping our patients overcome mental health issues caused by work stress is incredibly important to us. To find out more about how Brain Forest Centers can help you overcome the negative effects of job stress, visit our website today.