Workplace stress is ‘significant but hidden’

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WORKPLACE stress is a ‘significant’ but often hidden factor affecting the health of middle-aged Islanders, the head of a Scrutiny panel has warned after figures showed that people aged in their 40s and 50s were no healthier than they were in 2007.

Deputy Richard Renouf

The Middle Age Health Trends report from the States Statistics Unit showed that levels of obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption among Islanders aged 40-59 had not changed in a decade, despite major initiatives aimed at trying to improve public health.

As a result, Deputy Richard Renouf, the chairman of the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel, said that work should now be carried out to assess whether the strategy of imposing higher duties on tobacco and alcohol as a way to reduce consumption was working.

He also said that the report should encourage the States to work harder to encourage people to change their behaviours.

‘Government has a role in preventative health care to ensure a healthier population and avoid the future costs of health and social care,’ he said. ‘Often it has imposed higher taxes to try to reduce consumption, but perhaps now work should be done to assess whether that strategy is effective.

‘More difficult is encouraging changes to lifestyle and this survey should prompt government to work even harder to do that. But often people don’t warm to government initiatives; perhaps the Island needs a champion to promote healthy living – not sure who, perhaps one of our sporting stars.’

He added that the most concerning aspect of the report was that large numbers of middle-aged Islanders continued to drink at hazardous levels – a third of men and a fifth of women – and that 58 per cent of middle-aged men and 47 per cent of middle-aged women were classified as overweight or obese. Those figures were similar to obesity levels seen a decade ago.

‘This suggests that people are not radically changing their lifestyles despite the levels of education and awareness and despite increased taxation on alcohol and cigarettes,’ Deputy Renouf added. ‘This contrasts with the UK, where the report tells us a reduction in tobacco and alcohol consumption has been recorded. We know what we should do, but the poor health risks are in the future and pressures of life often mean we put off changing our habits.

‘I believe that, among the many pressures of life, workplace stress is a significant factor which is often underreported in or hidden from statistics. Middle age is a time when many people have advanced to positions of responsibility in their work and there is a growing culture which insidiously increases workloads, requires more time to be spent in the office to the detriment of families and unnecessarily requires workers to be available 24/7. For those affected, it is not surprising if there is precious little time to attend to exercise or healthy living.’

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson


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