A wide range of workplace conditions have been implicated as risk factors for a variety of health problems. These workplace conditions include shift work, long work hours, psychosocial stressors, as well as physical conditions.
Occupational groups exposed to a large number of work stressors are found to be at high risk for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, peptic ulcer disease, headache, musculoskeletal disorders, burnout, depression, anxiety and other undesirable outcomes.
Many jobs in America today are making people sick.
From the lowest to the highest-paying jobs, workers are suffering from a variety of illnesses stemming from exposure to stressful work environments.
Job stressors of many kinds such as insecure contracts, lack of respect, lack of control, long hours, shortened or skipped breaks, fear of layoff, unpaid time, diminished benefits including health insurance and pension, all contribute significantly to mental health problems such as burnout and depression and to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Many of these illnesses could be prevented if we acknowledge their causes and act now.
Workers sometimes have a sense that their jobs are making them sick though the serious and life- threatening nature of these health consequences may only become apparent after years of exposure. Job-related health problems are also frequently dismissed as being individual problems or personal weakness rather than as predictable outcomes of the way work is organized. The medical profession frequently contributes to this misunderstanding by ignoring working conditions as it sees most illness as the result of individual differences and/or unhealthy behaviors.
We need to change all this.
We want to make workers aware of this major threat to their health and quality life. Workers need to know that stressful jobs are making them sick but also that the jobs are becoming more and more stressful in recent years.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Individually and collectively, people can bring about positive change – for working people, and for the organizations they work for.
We are making a full-length documentary film and a companion book that will expose this mostly hidden threat to the wellbeing of working people from all walks of life. We will show how working people are negatively impacted by today’s conditions of work. We will explain the role of globalization and companies’ need for ever-increasing profits and how this contributes to creating unhealthy working conditions worldwide that facilitate the exploitation of working people from all walks of life in what is actually a race to the bottom. We will do this, in part, by telling the stories of real working people, nurses, hotel housekeepers, assembly line workers, bus drivers, software developers and technology workers as well as cashiers.
We are asking for your help getting out this important message. Here are some things you can do:
• We are looking for people to be interviewed in the film. If you are or know of a worker who may be interested in discussing his/her personal work story, please ask them to contact us.
• We are looking for forums where we can spread our message. If your organization has meetings where we can make a presentation, please let us know.
• We are looking for examples of organizations that are actively working to better the lives, and particularly the health, of working people. Fight of 15 is one such example. If your organization has upcoming activities that we can film which address these concerns, please contact us.
• We are also looking for funding as film-making is expensive. Any help would be appreciated. We are a 501(c) 3 – a non-profit charitable organization – and therefore, contributions are tax deductible.
Who are we? This effort begins with the Center for Social Epidemiology and includes researchers, activists, and veteran filmmakers.
We hope you will join us in this important, difficult, and yet very hopeful project that has the intention and promise of improving the lives of millions of people suffering or who will be suffering from preventable work-related illness unless a major change takes place.
Adopted by the Plenary of the Sixth ICOH International Conference on Work Environment and Cardiovascular Diseases under the auspices of the ICOH Scientific Committee on Cardiology in Occupational Health in Tokyo, Japan on March 30th 2013.
Cardiovascular disorders (CVDs) constitute a major burden for health of working populations throughout the world with as much as 50% of all causes of death and at least 25% of work disability. According to research data about 10 to 20% of all causes of CVD deaths among the working age populations can be attributed to work, i.e. are work-related. The loss of work days and work ability is likely to be substantially greater.
While CVD mortality is declining in developed countries, trends in incidence and prevalence are not parallel across age- and gender-groups, geographical areas, sectors of the economy or among certain occupational groups. In industrialized countries, while CVD mortality and myocardial infarction incidence are decreasing, some data indicate that if the acute coronary syndrome are included in the endpoint, the trends get flat, having as a net effect the increase in prevalence of the chronic forms of the disease, with its consequences in terms of returns to work.
Also there are some changes in CVD incidence among occupational classes. This is mainly due to the new types of work-related causes of morbidity associated with the recent developments in global work life; particularly in the industrialized countries, which give rise to psychosocial and physical risk factors in the work environment such as growing competition and time pressures, productivity pressures, continuous organisational changes, re-engineering and downsizing, lean production, job insecurity and threat of unemployment, introduction of new technologies and increase of sedentary work, changing patterns of working hours and partially extensive working hours. Meanwhile, in the developing countries or those in transition (e.g., Eastern Europe), CVD mortality is increasing due to major socioeconomic changes, the demographic transition and rapid industrialisation and urbanisation all leading to growing challenges to cardiovascular health.
Ageing of working populations and life style risk factors such as low-level physical activity during leisure time enhance the risk of CVDs and are often in complex interaction with the work-related factors. For example, certain working conditions may be important determinants of obesity, due to sedentary labour and promotion of unhealthy behaviours at work (e.g., stress-related eating) and through them, determinants of workers’ cardiovascular health as well.
Available research data suggest that about 80% of CVD mortality is preventable if the existing knowledge could be effectively used for system-wide implementation of prevention and health promotion programmes. Some countries have shown convincing examples of such system- wide impact.
The obstacles of achieving such wide-scale impact are less due to lack of knowledge or standardised methods than to lack of awareness, lack of policies and their implementation into practice and shortage of infrastructures and human resources needed for wide-scale and long-term programme implementation.
6th ICOH International Conference on Work Environment and Cardiovascular Diseases panel on the Kivimaki article, which recently appeared in Lancet in 2012, demonstrating a statistically significant relationship between Job Strain and Cardiovascular Disease in a meta analysis of 116,000 European working people.