Workers Health & Safety Centre

Work-related stressors impact women and men differently, research finds

Woman feeling stress at work
Exposure to psychosocial hazards at work adds to the growing health burden stress places upon both women and men, according to recently published Canadian research.
Researchers from Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health (IWH) used information drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey to analyze how certain aspects of work impact stress in their job or business (called “work stress” in this study) and stress overall (called “life stress”).  

Psychosocial hazards

The study found women reported lower job control, higher job strain (low job control combined with high job demands) and higher co-worker support compared with men. Women and men were found to have similar levels of job insecurity and supervisor support.  
The table below shows how each of the hazards studied affect the level of work and life stress in men and women. Women, for instance, suffered higher life and work stress as a result of low supervisor support. Lower support for men, on the other hand, did not translate into work or life stress. Low co-worker support and low job security was found to cause higher work stress regardless of gender.    
Overall, researchers found more women than men reported high levels of work and life stress. Though, both reported an association between higher level of work stress and higher level of life stress.   
Psychosocial hazards Work stress Life stress
  Men Women Men Women
  Low job control
  Low job security
  Low co-worker support
  Low supervisor support
  High job strain

Source:  At Work, Issue 93, Institute for Work & Health, Toronto

Pursuing prevention at work

Although stress is a normal part of work and life, too much can lead to debilitating mental injuries including depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. Research also suggests stress is a significant contributing factor to other health impacts ranging from the common cold and musculoskeletal disorders to heart disease and cancer.
Here in Canada, 500,000 workers miss work each week because of mental health-related suffering. Approximately 30 per cent of short and long-term disability claims are attributed to mental health issues. Direct costs to Canadian employers are in the billions when considering absenteeism, presenteeism and turnover.
Much of the discussion about how to address this epidemic is focused on support mechanisms and coping options for those already suffering, including yoga, meditation and exercise. The main criticism of such initiatives is they fail to promote prevention and the workplace efforts needed to identify and eliminate or reduce workplace causes of stress. Furthermore, they fail to assist Ontario employers in meeting their significant legal obligations to protect workers. Chief among these obligations is to prepare and review at least annually a written occupational health and safety policy that should include a commitment to providing a workplace that promotes worker well-being. Employers are also required to develop and maintain programs to implement this policy, including training for workers and supervisors.

WHSC supports prevention

For our part, Workers Health & Safety Centre continues to assist workplace parties through training programs and information services aimed at raising awareness about work stress, its significant impact on mental health along with prevention solutions at work.

Other related news from WHSC
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Campaign seeks to end abuse of call centre workers
Smartphone app targets workplace stress
New Canadian Standard focuses on workplace mental health
To learn more:
Call:     1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak with a training services representative