Work overtakes health as leading cause of stress for SA professionals

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Work is the leading stress factor for South African professionals, with nearly one in 10 recently taking time off work from stress-related illnesses, according to the third annual Profmed Stress Index. The 2016 edition of the index, compiled from survey responses of nearly 3 000 of Profmed’s professional membership base, revealed that almost 32% of respondents rank work as their highest stress factor.

Work replaces health and family as the leading cause of stress in 2015 and 2014 respectively which is unsurprising given the current economic climate, says the CEO and Principal Officer of Profmed, Graham Anderson.
“Graduate professionals in South Africa are increasingly under a huge amount of strain, largely driven by worsening economic conditions experienced in 2016,” he says. “As companies look to tighten their belts, professionals find themselves having to take on several additional responsibilities and workloads, which can often seem overwhelming.” Anderson says there are other areas of concern in this year’s index, including a rise in the proportion of people who have missed work due to stress and those who feel they are not managing their stress levels.
This year, nearly 10% of respondents said they had taken off from work in the last six months due to stress-related illnesses, up from 7.64% in 2015. There was also an increase of three percentage points in people who said they are unable to manage their stress well, up to 28.3% in 2016. “We strongly encourage people to learn more about the effects of stress and the techniques that can be used to reduce it. Stress can lead to several physical and emotional health consequences such as hypertension, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and depression,” Anderson says. However, Anderson says that it is encouraging to see that exercise has remained as the most common method of dealing with stress. “Exercise not only improves your physical wellbeing but also your mental health. Studies have shown it releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, increases levels of focus and improves your sleep, all of which gives you a greater sense of control over your life,” he says.
Nearly 3 000 participants took part in this year’s Stress Index Survey, with Profmed donating R5.00 on behalf of each participating member to the Organ Donor Foundation. “The Stress Index is an effective way of gathering data to help us understand the evolving issues facing graduate professionals. This data can then be used to develop informed educational programmes to help people manage their stress and general levels of health,” Anderson concludes.

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