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Stress in the workplace looks set to rise, finds pan-European opinion poll of 35,000


Job-related stress is a concern for the large majority of the European workforce, according to the second European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), measured the opinions of over 35,000 members of the public in 36 European countries on contemporary workplace issues including job-related stress, and the importance of occupational safety and health for economic competitiveness and in the context of longer working lives.

Eight in 10 respondents across Europe think the number of people suffering from job-related stress over the next five years will increase (80%), with as many as 52% expecting this to 'increase a lot'.

This echoes the findings of EU-OSHA's ESENER survey on new and emerging workplace risks, which found 79% of managers think that stress is an issue in their companies, making stress at work as important as workplace accidents for companies.

Work-related stress is one of the biggest health and safety challenges faced in Europe, representing a huge cost in terms of human distress and economic performance. The poll additionally found that the large majority of Europeans (86%) agree that following good occupational safety and health practices is necessary for a country's economic competitiveness, with 56% strongly agreeing. Views are similar among workers and those who do not work (86% and 85% agree respectively).

Christa Sedlatschek, Director of EU-OSHA, said: "The financial crisis and the changing world of work is making increased demands on workers, therefore it is unsurprising that work-related stress is at the forefront of people's minds.

"Regardless of age, gender and organisation size an overwhelming majority of people believe that work-related stress will rise. Nonetheless there are interesting national variations in those who expect job-related stress to 'increase a lot', with Norwegians least worried (16%), for instance, and Greeks most worried about rising stress (83% 'increase a lot'). Tackling psychosocial risks is a major focus of EU-OSHA's work to improve the lives of workers across Europe."

Iin the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, the poll found 87% of the general public across Europe believe that good occupational health and safety practices are important to help people work for longer before they retire (including 56% who say they are 'very important'). A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that many Europeans are ready for active ageing but their current occupational safety and health conditions might not allow them to continue working to an older age.

Although the typical pensionable age is 65 years across Europe, the average exit age from the labour force in 2009 was about 61.5 years according to Eurostat. In the Eurobarometer survey, four in ten (42%) Europeans believe that they will be capable of doing the work they are currently doing until the age of 65 or beyond, while 17% expect that they will not be able to carry on in their current job past the age of 59.

EU-OSHA is actively involved in the promotion of the European Year for Active Ageing 2012 to reinforce the need for good occupational safety and health at all stages of working life.