Intended for healthcare professionals


Chronic stress at work and the metabolic syndrome: prospective study

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 02 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:521

Stress, illness and a call to action

The prospective study by Chandola et al [1] adds a further Public
Health imperative to reduce the significant morbidity, consequent on
chronic stress at work. This week a BUPA Insurance survey [2] found seven
million Britons feel so ill with 'worry' that they seek medical help. In
the employed population, the British Occupational Health Research
Foundation found 'the largest, and growing, cause of work-related ill
health' is now mental ill health [3]. They have looked at a number of
remedial interventions, generally at the level of individual sick
employees, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. In terms of the social
gradient of illness described among civil servants [1], individual
interventions worked best 'with employees in high-control jobs' [3].
Employers have a legal 'duty of care' to protect the health of all their
employees, and the Health and Safety Executive have published Management
Standards aiming to reduce 'stress at work' [4]. In terms of reducing
chronic stress, it may help to consider change at the level of positive
'wellness' for the whole organisation, perhaps using a 'social engagement'
model [5] with dynamic learning-in-action.

1 Chandola T, Brunner E, Marmot M. Chronic stress at work and the
metabolic syndrome: prospective study. BMJ 2006; 0: bmj.38693.435301.80v2

2 BUPA Wellness. Media Briefing 15 February 2006.
(accessed 15/02/06)

3 British Occupational Health Research Foundation. Workplace
interventions for people with common mental health problems: Evidence
review and recommendations. London: BOHRF, 2005.

4 International Stress Management Association. Working together to
reduce stress at work. Sudbury: HSE Books, 2004.

5 Hillier D, Fewell F, Caan W, Shephard V. Wellness at work:
enhancing the quality of our working lives. International Review of
Psychiatry 2005; 17: 419-431.

Competing interests:
Currently a minor, local collaborator in a large national HSE project for tackling work-related stress.

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 February 2006
Woody Caan
Professor of public health
Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford CM1 1SQ, UK.