Top 5 Ways Stress at Work Can Make You Sick

It is estimated that employee stress costs US companies between $200-300 billion annually.

Between the direct and indirect costs including healthcare, compensation claims, absenteeism, turnover, and reduced productivity, it all adds up.


A recent large-scale analysis crunched the combined numbers from 79 research studies spanning several decades.

With all this data, they identified 7 sources of workplace stress that are significantly related to negative physical health symptoms.


Here we count them down by strength of relationship, from the weakest to strongest:

5. Number 5 is a tie between Work Hours (total # of hours spent working) and Lack of Control (the inability to determine how or when job tasks are performed).

4. Role Ambiguity: Number 4 is ambiguity about job role and responsibilities—specifically when expectations, standards, tasks, duties, or other responsibilities are not clearly established.

3. Number 3 is a tie between Interpersonal Conflict (negative workplace interactions such as disagreements, arguments, or bullying) and Workload (the amount of work required of an employee, factoring both physical and mental effort)

2. Role Conflict: The second strongest factor is ambiguity about job role and responsibilities—specifically when inconsistent or conflicting role information is given by one or more customer, coworker, manager/supervisor.

1. Organizational Constraints: The factor most strongly related to negative health symptoms are the things that prevent employees from completing tasks and performing their job effectively. These can include a lack of necessary information, tools, time, materials, or authority.


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  2. Avatar HeatherG   •  

    I can agree with these results as I have experienced work-related stress that made me ill. In late 2009, I had been working for a company for over 7 years. It was holiday season, so we were short staffed from people taking vacations. The company had also, recently down-sized to save money, and was on a “hiring freeze”, and in my department of what usually had a total of 9, was now forced to work with only 5. We were expected to do almost twice the work in the same amount of time because overtime was not an option. I ended up having a panic attack and fainted near the end of my shift one day. This caused me to have to take a medical leave of absence. In order for the company to be able to hold my position, I needed to see a company approved Dr. & Psychologist within 90 days. Being so close to the end-of-year holidays this was impossible. My company took over a month to even send the list of approved Dr.’s to me, and being that it was the beginning of a new year, the soonest I could be seen was to be another 10-12 weeks away. My company wouldn’t hear of it, wouldn’t approve me for Short-Term Disability, and didn’t hold my position. It was marked on my record that I voluntarily quit.

  3. Greg Willard Greg Willard   •     Author

    Thanks, Heather, for sharing your story. Nobody wins when companies handle situations like this ineffectively. I think that raising awareness is the first step in the right direction.

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