Stress is responsible for more than half of all missed work days, costing the European economy an estimated 20 billion euros ($29 billion) each year, according to statistics from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), which recently released study results on psychosocial risks in the workplace.
Europe's reputation for 35-hour work weeks and generous amounts of vacation time belies the fact that many workers find themselves facing an unhealthy amount of stress.
Job insecurity and high work intensity are two of the top threats to workers' health, said Jukka Takala, director of EU-OSHA.
Increasingly, European workers are offered temporary contracts, which can cause feelings of job insecurity. Also, many of the workers with precarious employment contracts tend to carry out the most hazardous jobs, work in poorer conditions and receive less safety training, according to the study.
Another problem deals with Europe's aging workforce. The study found that older workers are not getting the training they need to deal with increasing demands made on them. This has a negative impact on their health and increases the chance of work-related accidents.
Workers are being asked to take on more tasks, facing increasing pressure, which can lead to a drop in perceived security. Sometimes, workers are not compensated for increased workload and do not receive the necessary support to carry it out, according to the study.
The European Union said it wants to take a closer look at what can be done to lessen stress in the workplace. In April, the EU will host a workshop with representatives from industry and unions on ways to decrease stressful work situations.