Everyone experiences stress and yet there is a lot of information floating around about stress. Some of the information is correct while some information is incorrect. Just yesterday I read an article from a Twitter link that was clearly incorrect. I thought about responding to the Twitter feed and including a source that would have invalidated the article. However, I decided to post a blog that shares accurate information. Also, the situation reaffirmed my commitment to producing sound scientific research in an applied environment, adhering to the ethics and practice of “do no harm,” and to share this information for the betterment and legacy of people, organizations, societies and our planet.
So, here are some facts about stress:
- For over 9 decades, studies of stress have been gaining popularity within the behavioral, social, and health sciences. The term stress originated from the field of physics to denote how manmade structures must resist deformation caused by external forces. In physics, stress referred to the external pressure or force applied to a structure, while strain denoted the resulting internal distortion of the structure (Hinkle, 1974). Borrowing the term from physics to apply it to the behavioral sciences, Hans Selye (1974) adopted the term stress and changed its usage to mean circumstances that place physical or psychological demands on an individual. Historically, the three main theorists of stress are physiologist Walter Cannon, endocrinologist Hans Selye, and psychologist Richard Lazarus.
- Stress means different things to different people; therefore, there are several definitions of the term. Stress researcher Hans Selye (1974) defined stress as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it” (p. 14). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defined job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker” National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health [NIOSH], 1999, p. 7).
- Stress at work leads to a variety of consequences for both the employee and the organization. In a 2011 study conducted by The American Psychological Association, 70% of Americans indicated that work was a significant source of their stress: a consistent finding of the past 5 years (American Psychological Association [APA], 2011). Another study conducted by NIOSH (1999) showed that 40% of employees indicated their jobs were very or extremely stressful.
- Just as in the United States, workplace stress is a common problem worldwide. In a 2011 study conducted by The American Psychological Association, 70% of Americans indicated that work was a significant source of their stress: a consistent finding of the past 5 years (American Psychological Association [APA], 2011). Another study conducted by NIOSH (1999) showed that 40% of employees indicated their jobs were very or extremely stressful. While the United States and the Netherlands place more work demands on employees requiring longer working hours (Kenny & Cooper, 2003), countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom are finding that stress is a major contributor to employee disease, depression, and injury, and lowered company productivity (Price, 2004; Ryan & Watson, 2004).
- The financial impact of workplace stress also affects businesses all around the globe. Workplace stress is estimated to cost United States organizations more than $300 billion dollars every year in lost productivity, absenteeism, turnover, and medical, legal, and insurance costs (Rosch, 2001). In Canada, the issue of workplace stress costs 6 billion Canadian dollars annually (Price, 2004). Further, the United Kingdom reports that an estimated 200 million working days each year are lost due to illnesses caused by workplace stress (Ryan & Watson, 2004). Additional financial effects include employee lawsuits for workplace stress with monetary awards (Rosch, 2001), an increase in workers’ compensation, and an increase in disability claims (NIOSH, 1999). These and other reports suggest that workplace stress is a growing global epidemic.
- To address workplace stress, many organizations have responded by integrating stress management interventions (SMIs) such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs (Kabat-Zinn, 1990) and relaxation techniques such as breathing practices, meditation, guided imagery, and yoga (Feldman, Greeson & Senville, 2010; Schure, Christopher & Christopher, 2008). The purpose of these programs is to improve the workplace environment and reduce employee stress. Although they have been proven effective and continue to gain interest, these programs are not part of current standard business practices. One proposed reason for this is that executives require interventions to be effective and inexpensive, and require low time investment with an immediate change (Applebaum, 1975; Burke, 2008; Kotter, 1996). Secondly, in order to measure effectiveness, today’s researchers, clinicians, human resource professionals, and OD consultants use traditional quantitative surveys and questionnaires that were developed and validated 15-25 years ago (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961; Brantley, Waggoner, Jones & Rappaport, 1987; Cohen, Kamarck & Mermelstein, 1983; Maslach & Jackson, 1981; Rosenberg, 1965; Vitaliano, 1985). While they are practical to use within business environments, these survey measurements are outdated and do not represent today’s workforce, organization, and global economy.
So, what can we do about this? Well, for starters this is one of the reasons why I built a company founded from my doctoral research. Our continued applied research is scientifically sound, practical, and uses an innovative device for stress measurement. Our proprietary processes are proven to reduce employee stress and increase employee well-being as well as increase performance and productivity. To find out more or request a complementary consultation, contact us at email@example.com.
American Psychological Association. (2011). Stress in America: Our health at risk. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf
Applebaum, S. (1975). Management development and organizational development: An integrative approach, Business and Society, 16(1), 25-30. doi:10.1177/ 000765037501600104
Beck, A. T., Ward, C. H., Mendelson, M., Mock, J., & Erbaugh, J. (1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 561-571. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710120031004
Brantley, P. J., Waggoner, C. D., Jones, G. N., & Rappaport, N. B. (1987). A daily stress inventory: Development, reliability, and validity. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 10(1), 61-73.
Burke, W. (2008). Organization change: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385-396.
Feldman, G., Greenson, J., & Senville, J. (2010). Differential effects of mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and loving-kindness meditation on decentering and negative reactions to repetitive thoughts, Behavior Research and Therapy, 48, 1002-1011. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2010.06.006
Hinkle, L. E. (1974). The concept of “stress” in the biological and social sciences. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 5(4), 335-357. doi:10.2190/91DK-NKAD-1XP0-Y4RG
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.
Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Review Press.
Kenny, D. T., & Cooper, C. L. (2003). Introduction: Occupational stress and its management. International Journal of Stress Management, 4, 275-279. doi:10.1037/1072-5245.10.4.275
Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). Maslach Burnout Inventory: MBI.–. Consulting psychologists press.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (1999). Stress at work. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/pdfs/99-101.pdf
Price, C. (2004). Workplace stress costs billions. Benefits Canada, 28(12), 83.
Rosch, P. J. (Ed.). (2001, March). The quandary of job stress compensation. Health and Stress, 3, 1-4.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSE). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Measures Package, 61.
Ryan, D., & Watson, R. (2004). A healthier future. Occupational Health, 56, 20-21.
Schure, M., Christopher, J., & Christopher, S. (2008). Mind-body medicine and the art of self-care: Teaching mindfulness to counseling students through yoga, meditation, and qigong, Journal of Counseling & Development, 86, 47-56. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2008.tb00625.x
Selye, H. (1974). Stress without distress. London, England: Transworld.
Vitaliano, P. P., Russo, J., Carr, J. E., Maiuro, R. D., & Becker, J. (1985). The ways of coping checklist: Revision and psychometric properties. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 20(1), 3-26.