Stress has become a predominant force in the lives of millions of people in the United States and around the world. Stress derives from numerous causes. In theory, any disruptive or life altering event or activity that interrupts a person’s usual routine can produce stress. However, although stress has always been a critical aspect of the human experience, in today’s fast-paced and fast-changing world, where people are constantly expected to bear new responsibilities and undergo lifestyle changes, the sources of stress have become more diverse and pervasive. In recent years, a major cause and symptom of mounting stress in American society has been rising workplace violence. Not only do violent or traumatic incidents result from increased tensions within the workplace, they also often serve to increase stress among employees, exacerbating their feelings of insecurity and dissatisfaction.
Individuals display diverse symptoms of stress. For many people stress and a growing inability to cope with demands and responsibility leads to disorganization, hostility, drug abuse and alcohol abuse, and troubled personal relationships. Stress also causes several health-related problems, including headaches, sleeping disorders like insomnia, debilitating depression, and gastrointestinal problems. Stress appears to be associated with increasing incidences of cardiovascular disease within the American population. Women were traditionally considered to be significantly less prone to cardiovascular disease than their male counterparts—a difference once widely attributed to inherent gender differences in susceptibility. However, as more women have entered increasingly stressful workplaces, the gender gap has been steadily narrowing and cardiovascular disease has emerged as the major cause of death among both sexes in the United States and other “developed” societies.
The stresses associated with balancing increasingly demanding personal and professional lives have emerged as primary concerns, not only for the individuals who suffer from stress, but also from companies and governments that incur mounting losses as a result of impaired productivity. Decreased job satisfaction, poor work performance, and widespread absenteeism are now recognized as societal symptoms of stress and as costly burdens on local and national economies. Stress now results in high and escalating medical costs: a full 25 percent of working Americans are believed to suffer from persistent stress-related complaints, while the workforce consumes some 15 tons of aspirin every day. Work-related stress is also rapidly emerging as the most important factor in workers’ compensation, accounting for almost $12,000 of each employee’s annual costs, while on-the-job stress, or “cumulative workplace trauma” has been the cause of expensive legal suits against employees.Paper Masters