Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace

Health Effects of Job Stress

Short Term Effects
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), early warning signs of job stress include:

  • Headache
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Low morale

These symptoms interfere with an employee's sense of well-being and can result in poor health behaviors.  However, they are not likely to jeopardize long-term health if stressful conditions are not sustained over a long period of time.

Long Term Effects
Chronic, sustained exposure to stressful working conditions can result in a variety of long term health problems, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Psychological disorders
  • Workplace injury 

Decades of international research has demonstrated that chronic job stress contributes to cardiovascular disease (CVD) through several mechanisms.

  1. Job stress directly affects physiological processes that increase the risk for CVD:

    • High cholesterol
    • High blood pressure
    • High blood sugar
    • Weakened immune response
    • High cortisol
    • Changes in appetite and digestive patterns
  2. Job stress contributes to behavior changes that increase the risk for CVD:

    • Low physical activity levels
    • Excessive coffee consumption
    • Smoking
    • Poor dietary habits
  3. Job stress contributes to the development of mental health conditions that independently increase the risk for a range of chronic health conditions.

    • Anxiety
    • Depression

For a diagram on long term health effects, go to long-term health effects of job stress.

Test Your Stress Smarts
Take this short quiz on stress and health: Stress Smarts.