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Results of a study published in the British Medical Journal show that work stress is associated with a doubling of the risk of death from heart disease. In promoting cardiovascular health, the traditional advicehas always been for people to:

  • stop smoking,
  • cut down drinking,
  • eat less fat, and
  • get moving through physical activity.

These latest findings suggest that attention should also be paid to the prevention, mastering ormanagement of work stress.

Adapted from BMJ 2002;325:857 (19 October):

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in modern society. Employees with high job strain, a combination of high demands at work and low job control, have high stress levels and more than twice the risk of death form heart disease compared with employees who have low job strain. The stress levels and risk for employees with effort-reward imbalance (low salary, lack of social approval, and few career opportunities relative to efforts required at work) were 2.5 times higher. High job strain also showed an increased total cholesterol at the 5 year follow up, while effort-reward imbalance showed an increase in body weight.

Can something be done about this?

The problem has been identified: work stress is bad for your health. So is personal stress. Not only does it double your risk for getting heart disease, long term unrelenting stress can be the cause or exacerbating factor in almost any of our modern day chronic diseases or ailments:

  • infections,
  • cancer,
  • skin problems,
  • premenstrual tension,
  • severe menopause,
  • back problems,
  • chronic fatigue,
  • digestive system problems and
  • lung disease.

Stress management is of the utmost importance to maintain health and wellbeing and restore a sense of serenity and peace while maintaining your creative, productive, high profile lifestyle.

Expected results when implementing health and wellness programs:

  • Improved productivity and creativity,
  • higher levels of company morale,
  • reduced absenteeism,
  • improved day-to-day quality of working life for the employer and employee.

Dr Arien van der Merwe, Medical Director of Health Stress Management (Pty) Ltd, warns against cigarette smoking, poor nutrition, substance abuse, a sedentary lifestyle and, most importantly high stress levels, as major contributing factors to work related health problems and reasons for employee absenteeism. She says:

‘Many studies show that psychological and physical factors in the workplace such as intense deadlines, poor interpersonal relationships, poor ergonomics, absence of a stimulating work environment and healthy work culture, as well as inadequate job descriptions, are also major contributors to employee absenteeism and increased health risk,’

A growing trend towards preventative healthcare plans provides the solution to this problem. Working proactively to reduce the risk of developing disease, as well as the very important promotion of a wellness lifestyle to prevent and treat disease, wellness programs empower the individual to recognise the danger signals of overdoing it, of living an unhealthy lifestyle, and educate employees about taking preventative measures to reduce the harmful effects of their habits and behaviour.

The Corporate Life Program is a unique concept whereby a complete medical examination with health risk assessment, including a stress, fitness and wellness assessment, is combined with a physical examination, comprehensive wellness and fitness report, together with a personalised wellness program and recommendations ranging from the use of natural remedies, movement and fitness programs, to practical stress management tools and techniques, in order to address the issues highlighted by the examination and risk assessment – thus not only identifying the problem, but also providing the solution!

Not only do a wellness program lead to improved productivity and creativity, higher levels of morale and reduced absenteeism, they also improve the day-to-day quality of working life for the employee. By educating staff on how to take control of their health and wellbeing at work and at home, HSM empowers them to manage their own health, family life and working environment.

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