Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace

Job Stress 101

An Introduction to Job Stress

What is Job Stress?

Job stress is defined as "the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury" (NIOSH, 1999).

Other definitions of job stress include: The demands of the workers are not matched by the decision-making authority and skill levels of the worker; and efforts made on the job are not matched by the rewards provided by the job, such as support, respect, security, or opportunities for advancement and income (Siergrist, 1996; Karasek, 1998).

How Common is Job Stress?

About one-third of workers say their work is very or extremely stressful; while 25% of employees view work as their number one stressor; and up to 44% of women and 36% of men want to quit due to job stress. Not only can stressors affect individual workers, but they can also decrease productivity, as well as increase financial burdens of workplaces (NIOSH, 1999).

Job Stressors that May Lead to Poor Health

Warning Signs of Job Stress

Workers frequently exposed to physical, emotional or job design stressors are at risk for experiencing job stress. Warning signs of job stress include
  • Headache
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Short temper
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Low morale
  • Over and under eating
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Skin rashes
  • Teeth grinding
  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic mild illness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • Anxiety, irritability
  • Angry outbursts
  • Accidents
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Feeling powerless
  • Isolation from co-workers
  • Marital/family problems
  • Workplace violence
There are many short-term and long-term effects of prolonged exposure to job stress. However, by taking a proactive approach, there are many things you can do to prevent these effects.