Younger workers experience stress more frequently than their older colleagues, and employee stress in general has physical, behavioral, and cognitive side effects that can lower productivity and increase employer costs, according to a survey on the effects of stress in the workplace released by employee benefits provider Unum on April 26.

The survey of 1,232 U.S. adults conducted in January 2018 found that 39% of workers aged 18-34 report that they experience stress daily to several times a week, and just 33% said they experience stress infrequently or never. By contrast, the older baby boomers surveyed appear to be the least stressed of the age groups, with only 11% of workers aged 65 or older indicating that they experience stress daily to several times a week, and 79% reporting that they experience stress infrequently or never. The values for middle-aged workers were closer to those of the youngest than the oldest group, with 29% of respondents aged 35-64 saying they experience stress daily to several times a week, and 48% indicating they experience stress infrequently or never.

The results also showed that working women of all ages report more frequent exposure to stress than working men, with 54% of female respondents, but only 47% of male respondents, saying they experience stress on a daily to weekly basis.

Among respondents of all age groups, the top causes of stress were found to include financial stress (49%), home life and family relationships (43%), personal health (35%), job responsibilities (33%), and the health of family members (33%).

Researchers cited a recent estimate from the American Institute of Stress that stress costs the U.S. economy over $300 billion annually in absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, lower productivity, accidents, and medical costs. They emphasized that while most stress originates outside of the workplace, it is in an employer’s best interest to provide resources that proactively support employees in managing their stress before it escalates and affects their ability to do their job.

While acknowledging that stress can manifest differently from person to person, researchers pointed out that the common signs include a significant change in an employee’s quality of work, professional demeanor, or personality. They recommended that employers watch for short-term responses to stress, including avoidance behavior or lack of participation in group activities, reduced reasoning or difficulty making decisions, and a tendency to work long hours; as well as for signs of long-term responses to stress, including a loss of concentration or confidence, outbursts of irritation or anger, panic attacks, and a loss of energy.

From Benefit Trends Newsletter, Volume 61, Issue 6

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