Print Edition - 2017-01-05  |  Health and Living

Women suffer much more work stress than men

  • Sexism in the workplace and family responsibilities add to pressure as they face unequal pay and lack of support
- DAVID BATTY

Jan 5, 2017-Women suffer considerably higher levels of work-related stress, anxiety and depression than men, with workplace sexism and familial responsibilities providing additional career pressures, a leading psychiatrist has said.

It comes as official figures show that women aged 25-54 are more stressed than their male colleagues, with this pressure peaking for those aged 35-44, when many women are juggling family responsibilities, such as caring for children and elderly parents. Dr Judith Mohring, lead consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Wellbeing Centre in the City of London, said women were under constant, intense pressure, with company restructuring, lack of managerial support and balancing work and family life leaving them feeling drained.

Women faced additional workplace pressures, such as having to prove they were as good as men, not being valued or promoted, unequal pay, and being expected to “look the part”, added Mohring, who treats many female professionals. Female managers in male-dominated fields sometimes found the strain intolerable, and their stress levels were also rising because families were more reliant on their income, she added.

Mohring called for companies to offer women more flexible working and better career security and progression. She said: “If companies and organisations are genuinely interested in making their loyal and talented female staff feel less stressed—and I sometimes question if they are—then allowing employees wherever possible to work from home is an important step forward.

“Women are also unhappy about lower pay than men, job insecurity and lack of potential for career progression. And when push comes to shove, in a restructure they often feel that not having had the time to network with senior—often male—bosses puts them at disproportionate risk.

“Endemic uncertainty is built into many workplaces, and women often bear the brunt of that. In truth, many of these changes in organisations actually achieve very little and raise stress rather than productivity—which in itself is counter-productive.” From the age of 25, women feel much more stress than men, and this continues throughout their working lives, according to figures published by the Health and Safety Executive.

The data for a three-year period up to 2016 also showed that men aged 16-24, 25-34 and 35-44, had “significantly lower rates of work-related stress” than the average. Those with the highest rates were men aged 45-54, but the rate was “not statistically significant”, the HSE report noted.

By contrast, women aged 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 were all statistically higher than average, with statisticians attributing this partly due to the fact that they predominate in some of the most taxing frontline roles, such as teaching and nursing.

The HSE added: “The occupations and industries reporting the highest rates of work-related stress remain consistently in the health and public sectors of the economy. The reasons cited as causes of work-related stress are also workload, lack of managerial support and organisational change.”

The report also showed that work-related stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 37 percent of work-related ill health and 45 percent of days lost in 2015-16.

The HSE figures are based on the Labour Force Survey which interviews 38,000 households quarterly. The survey is the government’s primary employment dataset.

Statisticians said the stress figures “represent a broadly stable trend over recent years”, which Mohring suggested showed that not enough has been done to give women equality in the workplace.

Some 200,000 men reported work-related stress averaged over the past three years compared to 272,000 women, according to the HSE’s figures. This means women were 1.4 times more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression. The total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015-16 among both men and women was 488,000, a prevalence rate of 1,510 per 100,000 workers. The number of new cases was 224,000, an incidence rate of 690 per 100,000 workers. The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015-16 was 11.7m days, equivalent to an average of 23.9 days lost per case.

—©2016 The Guardian

Published: 05-01-2017 08:59

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