New poll reveals most common cause of work-related stress in Europe
• Half of workers across Europe think work-related stress is common, and four in ten think it is not handled well at their workplace.
• Job insecurity or job reorganization is thought to be the most common cause of work-related stress across Europe.
• There is low awareness of programs or policies to make it easier for workers to continue working up to or beyond the retirement age, though the majority support their introduction.
These are the main findings of the 3rd edition of the pan-European opinion poll conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).
Around half of workers across Europe (51%) perceive that work-related stress is common in their workplace, with 16% saying it is ‘very common’ according to the poll.
Female workers are more likely than male workers to say that work-related stress is common (54% vs. 49%), as are workers aged 18-54 (53%) compared with workers aged 55+ (44%).
Perceptions of work-related stress also vary by sector with those in health or care work being the most likely to say cases of work-related stress are common (61% including 21% who say cases are ‘very common’).
EU-OSHA Director Christa Sedlatschek points out that “41% of workers across Europe say that work-related stress is not handled well in their workplace, with 15% telling us it is handled ‘not at all well’. We are very much focused on tackling psychosocial risks, such as stress, in the workplace. Next year we will launch our Healthy Workplaces Campaign on ‘"Managing Stress’. The message to be conveyed across European companies of different sizes and sectors is that psychosocial risks can be dealt with in the same logical and systematic way as other health and safety issues.”
There is a link between the proportion of workers who say work-related stress is common where they work and those workers who say that work-related stress is not controlled well. Seven in ten (72%) workers across Europe who say work-related stress is rare in their workplace also say it is controlled well, while conversely six in ten (58%) workers who say work-related stress is common where they work also believe that it is not controlled well.
Most common cause
The most common cause of work-related stress across Europe is perceived to be job insecurity or job reorganization (72%) followed by hours worked or workload (66%). However, among younger workers aged 18-34, these two causes are ranked joint highest (both at 69%). Furthermore, health or care workers are much more likely than average to select hours worked/workload (77%).
In countries with a higher level of public debt, workers are more likely to cite job insecurity or job reorganization as a perceived cause of work-related stress; 73% of workers in countries with public debt of more than 90% of GDP choose job insecurity or job reorganization as a common cause work-related stress compared to 66% of those in countries with public debt of 60% of GDP or less.
Unacceptable behaviors such as bullying or harassment are perceived as a common cause of work-related stress by six in ten workers (59%). Fewer workers perceive a lack of support from colleagues or superiors (57%), a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities (52%) or limited opportunity to manage work patterns (46%) as common causes of work-related stress.
Across Europe, half of those polled (52%) expect the proportion of workers aged 60+ in their workplace to increase by 2020 (43% think this is unlikely). Workers aged 55+ are more likely to think there will be a higher proportion of people aged 60+ in their workplace in 2020 (59%) than those aged 35-54 (54%), and younger workers aged 18-34 (45%).
One in eight workers (12%) are aware of policies and programs making it easier for older workers to continue working up to or beyond retirement age. Awareness of policies increases as workplace size increases from 7% in the smallest workplaces (1-10 workers) up to 19% in the largest workplaces (more than 250 workers). Among those who are not aware of such programs and policies, 61% support their introduction. Groups more likely to favor these policies include women, part-time workers, health or care workers and those in larger workplaces. Older workers aged 55+ are only slightly more likely than younger workers to support such policies (64% vs. 61% of workers aged 35-54 and 60% of workers aged 18-34).
When asked whether they thought older workers aged 60+ were more prone to certain behaviors than other workers:
• Only two in ten workers (22%) perceive older workers to have more accidents at work than other workers (this relationship is consistent among most groups although manual workers are slightly more likely to think this);
• Around three in ten (28%) think that older workers aged 60+ are less productive at work than other workers;
• Four in ten (42%) think that older workers tend to suffer more from work-related stress than other workers, while slightly more workers think the converse (48%); and
• Six in ten workers (60%) believe that workers aged 60+ are less likely to be able to adapt to changes at work than other workers, and this perception is held by half (49%) of older workers aged 55+ (though it should be noted one in three of all workers (33%) believe that it is other workers who are less able to adapt to changes at work).
 Public debt as a % of GDP data is from Eurostat, 2012 Q2. Countries with public debt at more than 90% of GDP are Greece, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, France and Iceland. Countries with public debt at 60% or less of GDP are Poland, Finland, Latvia, Denmark, Slovakia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia, Romania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Estonia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) contributes to making Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work. The Agency researches, develops, and distributes reliable, balanced, and impartial safety and health information and organises pan-European awareness raising campaigns. Set up by the European Union in 1996 and based in Bilbao, Spain, the Agency brings together representatives from the European Commission, Member State governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations, as well as leading experts in each of the EU-27 Member States and beyond.