On November 27, families in the U.S. take a break from workday stress to gather around the dinner table for Thanksgiving turkey. In London, a one-day conference on the 27th tackled the question "Is stress endemic?" head on.

"One in five people in Britain say they are either 'very' or 'extremely' stressed at work. It is one of the biggest causes of ill health in the workplace, making half a million people unwell every year," according to an article in the London Daily Mail earlier this year.

One psychological expert puts it this way: "Many people in 2003 sleep like babies. They wake up every two hours and cry."

A very British perspective: "To live for your work may seem admirable but to die for it seems both unnecessary and uneconomic," says another stress expert, Dr . Malcolm Carruthers.

Research by Professor John Mcleod of the University of Abertay shows that one of the most effective remedies is targeted workplace counseling:

  • Overall, it can reduce levels of stress in the workplace by more than 50 percent.
  • "Levels of work-related symptoms return to the normal range for more than half of all clients", says Professor McLeod.
  • Levels of sickness and absence fall by between 25-50 percent thanks to counseling. In one 1998 study by Professor Cary Cooper of the University of Manchester Institute and Technology, rates of sickness/absence fell by an average of 60 percent.
  • Successful results can be achieved after as little as 3-8 sessions of counseling, says McLeod's report.
Work pressure and distress knows no bounds, of course. Dr. Sidney Lecker of the Stress Control Center, New York, claims that between one-third and one-half of all U.S. executives have their careers damaged by burnout.