Robert Phillips | ACT Author Insights - category / Risk

Stress And Work

 31 Jul 2017    published by: Robert Phillips

People often comment on how stressful life has become, trying to balance work with home, family, social activities, sport and other recreation and possibly study.

It is therefore not surprising that mental stress has emerged as a major cause of Workers Compensation claims in recent years, having nearly doubled from 4500 to 8500 claims per year from 1996/7 to 2003/4, although it has since levelled out around 7000 per year

Two-fifths of the cases relate to overwork, more than one-fifth to harassment, and one-sixth due to exposure to violence. About 60% of claimants are women, at a claims rate more than twice as high per hours worked than for men. In 2004-05, in all working age groups, women had a greater susceptibility to, or greater willingness to claim for stress than men.

In the 15 to 24 age group, the female rate was one stress compensation claim for every three million hours worked, while for males it was one in eight million. For 25 to 44 year olds, rates had tripled to one claim in a million hours for women and one in two and a half million hours for men.

For 45 to 64 year olds, the rates increased slightly. For women it increased to one claim in 900,000 hours and for men to one in two million. In the 65+ age groups, the rates dropped threefold, back to around one in three million for women and one in six million for men.

Paradoxically, as a general rule, the industry sectors with the lowest fatality and physical injury rates tended to have the highest stress rates, particularly in the services sector.

Women most likely to make stress-related claims are:

  • nurse managers at one claim per 100,000 working hours;
  • policewomen (one in 110,000); and
  • welfare associate professionals and social workers (one in 160,000).

These rates are ten to 30 times the overall stress claim rates for women, and work out at up to two per cent per year. Working for 25 years at 2000 hours annually in these occupations means up to a 50:50 chance of putting in a stress-related Workers Compensation claim.

The men most susceptible to stress are:

  • train drivers & guards (one claim per 115,000 hours);
  • prison officers (one in 190,000); and
  • policemen and welfare associate professionals (one in 220,000).

Men who work in these occupations for 25 years at 2000 hours annually have about a 25–50% chance of putting in a stress-related claim, at about one or two per cent per year.

Major symptoms of stress-related conditions are anxiety and depression. Mental stress claims typically involve a person being off work for about ten weeks, and a cost of around $13,000. These are more than double the figures for most compensation claims, many of which (about 40%) relate to muscular stresses and strains. The mind, it seems, takes at least twice as long to heal as the body.

(Source: R. Phillips, A Risky Life, (Halstead Press) Sections 8.4 & 8.7)

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