Many Americans experience work related stress. We come home tired and grumpy. Our family relationships and our personal health suffer. Therefore, it is important to understand what causes work related stress, how to deal with the stress and which types of jobs create the most stress.

Stressful Jobs

According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) the rate of anxiety, stress and neurotic disorders among American workers was 0.6 per 10,000 full time workers as of 2001. Three industries reported incidents above this mean. Those industries included finance, insurance and real estate, transportation and public utilities and, services.

Figure 2-8. Incidence rate of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases by private industry sector, 2001. For anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorders, private industry reported an overall incidence rate of 0.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2001. Higher rates were reported for transportation and public utilities (1.1), finance, insurance, and real estate (1.1), and services (0.7) (Note: A dash in parentheses indicates that no data were reported or that data do not meet BLS publication criteria).


Stressful jobs result in missed work days. NIOSH collected data from 1992-2001 about workdays missed due to anxiety, stress and neurotic disorders. While, the overall time missed from work decreased during that period, employees were still calling into work to report that they would be out sick because of stress and related conditions. The industries with the highest incidents of missed work days are the same ones that reported the highest incidents of anxiety, stress and neurotic disorders in 2001, transportation and public utilities and, finance, insurance and real estate.

Figure 2-9. Annual rates of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases involving days away from work by private industry sector, 1992-2001. The annual rate for these disorders declined 25% in the private sector during 1992-2001, and rates declined for each industry sector except retail trade. Finance, insurance, and real estate had consistently higher rates than other industry sectors during the 10-year period and experienced a 42.1% rate reduction.

Who Is Stressed?

When one looks across industries at different employment positions, the NIOSH data presents a clear trend as to who is suffering the most stress. The data indicates that technical, sales and administrative support staff members suffer the most stress followed by employees in managerial and professional positions.

Figure 2-7. Distribution and number of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases involving days away from work in private industry by occupation, 2001. Technical, sales, and administrative support along with managerial and professional specialty occupations constituted 63.5% of anxiety, stress, and neurotic disorder cases in 2001.(Sources: BLS

[2003a,b]; Booth-Jones et al. [2003a].)

What Causes Stress And How To Manage It

It is not enough to know that workers, particularly in certain industries and professions, have work related stress. Stress can cause serious health and personal problems and it is, therefore, important to understand what causes stress so that unnecessary stress can be avoided and unavoidable stress can be managed.

Some of the common causes of job stress include long hours, hectic days, difficult managers or coworkers, difficult work conditions and concern about one’s job stability.

Workers who suffer from insomnia, fatigue, digestive issues, short tempers or a lack of enthusiasm for their work should consider whether job related stress may be a problem.

If it is a problem then there are some things that can be done to manage the stress. The worker may try to change things on the job by requesting a transfer to a different unit or manager, by requesting different shifts or by finding a new employer or industry. Alternatively or simultaneously, the worker might decide to get his or her own stress under control through counseling or engaging in a fun and relaxing hobby.