Nearly 30 percent of adult workers suffer from work-related stress, and it is commonly acknowledged that stress has damaging effects on individual’s health. A recently published prospective cohort study by Dr. Jenni Kulmala and co-workers from the Gerontology Research Center (GEREC) at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, provides strong evidence that perceived work-related stress in midlife predicts functional limitations and disability later in old age.
Previously stress has been described as a rather uniform entity in all individuals, with more or less consistent symptoms, but this study shows that dominant stress symptoms in middle age may vary between persons. The study involved more than 5,000 persons who were followed up for almost thirty years from working age to old age.
“We were able to identify four different stress profiles among occupationally active persons aged from 44 to 58 years: negative reactions to work and depressiveness; perceived decrease in cognition; sleep disturbances; and somatic symptoms. Some people suffered from occasional symptoms, but in some cases these symptoms were observed in several time points and thus were considered as continuous,” says Dr. Jenni Kulmala.
“It is also possible that the chronic activation of stress responses may result in the “wear and tear” of the human body and thus increase the risk of old age disability,” says Dr. Kulmala.