Chronic stress is a growing concern for organisations across the globe.
A recently-published policy by ACAS, ‘Stress and anxiety at work; personal or cultural?’, highlights significant amounts of workplace stress being reported by employees.
Two-thirds of respondents (66%) have felt stressed and/or anxious about work in the last 12 months, with particular variation by age – 76% for those under the age of 35, compared to 54% for those aged 55 and over.
Research by the CIPD ‘Health and Wellbeing at Work’ reports that mental ill health is increasingly prevalent as a cause of both short- and long-term absence. Along with stress, musculoskeletal injuries and acute medical conditions, it remains most commonly responsible for long-term absence.
The serious impact of stress-related conditions has even prompted the World Health Organisation to officially recognise burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis as of 2020, adding it to the International Classification of Diseases.
With these statistics painting an alarming picture of increasing stress levels in the workplace, it’s crucial to understand what the physical impact on individuals looks like.
What is the Physical Impact of Stress?
The physical impact of stress, both short and long term, can be serious.
We define stress as a physiological response to an external or internal stimulus. This can be physical, emotional, societal or psychological.
Stress in and of itself isn’t inherently bad - in the right situation, it can even be preservative, for example, realising that a car is driving towards you at speed while crossing a road. However, these types of stimulus are designed to be useful in short, relevant bursts.
Experiencing stress on a daily basis over a prolonged period of time is a different matter.