Firms face court for cutting life-expectancy

Staff suffering from work-related stress could use medical research linking stress with terminal illnesses in legal claims...

Staff suffering from work-related stress could use medical research linking stress with terminal illnesses in legal claims against employers, writes John Kavanagh

This is the view of Michael Reddy, chairman of Independent Counselling and Advisory Services, a specialist consultancy on stress at work. He points to a new study of 20,000 professional people by Harvard School of Public Health in the US which found that, "low control in their jobs predicted significant declines in physical function and mental health".

The researchers went as far as to conclude that health problems caused by job stress were as serious as those suffered by smokers. Earlier research has already linked stress to poor health, including heart disease.

Reddy believes people diagnosed with terminal illnesses will use this growing body of research to seek compensation from former employers for reducing their life expectancy.

"The problem is that some people's bloodstream is so overloaded with cortisol, caused by stress, that it harms their immune defence," he says.

Recent UK surveys have shown that stress is now the biggest reason for sick days among white-collar staff, after minor complaints such as colds.

"I also believe there are large numbers of people in a chronically depressed state in organisations, and the cause can be down to the way their work is structured," Reddy adds. "They are lurking in many organisations and no-one does anything about it."

This was first published in June 2000



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