Headlines: July 6th, 2004

Employees who do not feel the effort they put into work is balanced by the rewards they get are at increased risk of coronary heart disease and poor health while secure jobs increase health, well-being and job satisfaction. Those are among the key findings of a new report commissioned by the Council of Civil Service Unions.The report, “Work Stress & Health: the Whitehall II Study” was commissioned in collaboration with the Cabinet Office. It finds that stress in the workplace increases ill health and the risk of disease, but job security, in addition to working with supportive colleagues and managers, reduces sickness absence and improves health.

The publication is a summary of the key findings of an original research project carried out by University College London. The Whitehall II study has been following up a group of 10,308 London-based civil servants, ranging from mandarins to messenger, for almost 20 years to look at the relationship between working conditions and health. It dispels the myths that people in high status jobs have higher risks of heart disease and that the gradient of health in industrialised societies is a matter of poor health for the disadvantaged and good health for others.

Other key findings show that poorly managed organisational change can harm health among staff, an active social life outside work can have health benefits, stresses from conflicting work and family demands lead to poor health and that a healthy diet, exercise and quitting smoking all reduce the risk of disease and promote well-being.

Mark Serwotka, Chair of the CCSU said that at a time when people working in the civil service were facing job insecurity and coming under increasing pressure through job cuts and rationalisation, the publication was essential reading for those concerned with health policy and a vital tool in creating a healthy workforce.