New poll reveals most common cause of work-related stress

According to the main findings of the pan-European opinion poll conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), the main causes of work-related stress are:

  • Half of workers across Europe think work-related stress is common, and four in ten think it is not handled well at their workplace.
  • Job insecurity or job re-organisation is thought to be the most common cause of work-related stress across Europe.
  • There is low awareness of programmes or policies to make it easier for workers to continue working up to or beyond the retirement age, though the majority support their introduction.

Around half of workers across Europe (51%) perceive that work-related stress is common in their workplace, with 16% saying it is ‘very common’ according to the poll. Female workers are more likely than male workers to say that work-related stress is common (54% vs. 49%), as are workers aged 18-54 (53%) compared with workers aged 55+ (44%). Perceptions of work-related stress also vary by sector with those in health or care work being the most likely to say cases of work-related stress are common (61% including 21% who say cases are ‘very common’).

EU-OSHA Director Christa Sedlatschek commented: “41% of workers across Europe say that work-related stress is not handled well in their workplace, with 15% telling us it is handled “not at all well”. We are very much focused on tackling psychosocial risks, such as stress, in the workplace. Next year we will launch our Healthy Workplaces Campaign on “Managing Stress“. The message to be conveyed across European companies of different sizes and sectors is that psychosocial risks can be dealt with in the same logical and systematic way as other health and safety issues.’

There is a link between the proportion of workers who say work-related stress is common where they work and those workers who say that work-related stress is not controlled well. Seven in ten (72%) workers across Europe who say work-related stress is rare in their workplace also say it is controlled well, while conversely six in ten (58%) workers who say work-related stress is common where they work also believe that it is not controlled well.

The most common cause of work-related stress across Europe is perceived to be job insecurity or job reorganisation (72%) followed by hours worked or workload (66%). However, among younger workers aged 18-34, these two causes are ranked joint highest (both at 69%). Furthermore, health or care workers are much more likely than average to select hours worked/workload (77%).

In countries with a higher level of public debt workers are more likely to cite job insecurity or job re-organisation as a perceived cause of work-related stress; 73% of workers in countries with public debt of more than 90% of GDP choose job insecurity or job re-organisation as a common cause work-related stress compared to 66% of those in countries with public debt of 60% of GDP or less.

Unacceptable behaviours such as bullying or harassment are perceived as a common cause of work-related stress by six in ten workers (59%). Fewer workers perceive a lack of support from colleagues or superiors (57%), a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities (52%) or limited opportunity to manage work patterns (46%) as common causes of work-related stress.