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Occupational stress higher in white collar employees

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Manufacturing, construction and other forms of physical work can be tough on the body and mind. A worker compensation attorney in Algonquin is familiar with cases of severe stress caused by physical labor. A 1999 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a surprising fact: most cases of disabling occupational stress are reported by white-collar workers.

Background of the BLS study

The BLS study examined workers in a wide range of trades and professions, including technical support, administration, managerial positions, machine operators, precision crafts and service industries. Researchers looked at the distribution of stress in each of these areas. Psychological reactions to stress were cataloged separately from physical injuries caused by incidents in the workplace.

Results of the study

According to the final statistics compiled by the BLS study, white-collar jobs were associated with a considerably higher level of psychological stress. Sales and technical support was found to be the most stressful area, with 48 percent of all cases that required short-term or long-term absence from work. Managerial and professional positions, despite their relative rarity, accounted for an additional 16 percent of psychologically based stress.

Negative correlation with physical danger

One result of the study was particularly striking: there was a negative correlation between the physical dangers of a job and the level of mental stress faced by employees. Manual laborers and machine operators suffered nearly half of the cases of job-related injury and illness, but they accounted for only 15 percent of the cases of psychological disability, even less than the amount covered by professional and managerial workers. Forestry, fishing and farming were included in the study, but the rates of psychological stress in those trades were so low that they were not calculated into the final results.

Fascinating results

The outcome of this study is fascinating and not entirely intuitive, as a worker compensation attorney in Algonquin can see. What causes increased levels of stress among workers who spend their time in comfortable and safe physical circumstances? Some possibilities include the following:


  • Expectations to continue working during nights, weekends and vacations

  • Poor physical fitness and lack of exercise

  • Intense control and surveillance by supervisors over employees

  • Real or perceived threats of outsourcing and job loss


According to the American Psychological Association, these factors can all contribute to white-collar job stress.

White-collar workers in Illinois are not immune to job-related disability. People who have suffered severe psychological distress at work should consider meeting with a worker compensation attorney in Algonquin.

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