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Business

Stress at Work

European Union officials launch the first-ever campaign to reduce the stress load in workplaces across Europe.

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Millions of employees across the EU -- from doctors and construction workers to teachers and bureaucrats -- suffer from on-the-job stress.

Work-related stress leads to health problems among 28 percent of EU workers and costs the economy more than 20 billion euros a year, EU officials said Tuesday as they announced a campaign to improve the situation for workers and their employers alike.

The EU's Agency for Safety and Health at Work, which is overseeing the effort, said more than 40 million employees suffer from work-related stress caused by having a lack of control over their work, unreasonable demands and poor management of change.

"The changing world of work -- and in particular the rise of job insecurity -- has made work-related stress one of the biggest safety and health challenges facing today's businesses," said Pat Cox, president of the European Parliament.

Public Awareness Campaign

The campaign, which runs through October, will focus on raising awareness about the issue through a public education campaign and on encouraging workers and their bosses to discuss the issue.

"Stress is a growing problem with massive human and financial costs, but it is not one we have to accept," said Anna Diamantopoulou, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs. "The Commission is convinced that work-related stress can and must be prevented."

"However, we know that the only way it can be tackled effectively is by working together."

Many Factors Lead to Stress

In launching the campaign in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the agency noted that more than half of the employees in the EU work at high speed or on tight deadlines for at least a quarter of their working day. Nearly a quarter of the workers report that they experience overall fatigue. And 9 percent of workers report that they have been subjected to intimidation at work.

One of the major factors leading to workplace stress is a lack of control at work. Thirty-five percent of employees say that they have no say in the order of their tasks and 55 percent say they have no influence over how long they work.

The agency noted that major studies have shown that women report the highest levels of job stress and that 22 percent of heart disease among EU women is due to work-related stress. This compares to 16 percent in men.

Search for Common Solution

"No single country has the solution; together, however, we can make inroads into this costly human and economic problem," said agency Director Hans-Horst Konkolewsky.

The agency's campaign is being backed by all EU member states, the European Commission and Parliament, as well as by various employee and business groups.

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