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Is Stress The Cause Of Man Flu PDF Print Email

New research published today in the scientific Journal, Occupational Medicine suggests men who get stressed at work are more likely to catch common colds and sniffles. The research did not find the same association amongst women workers.


The scientists studied 1200 manual workers from forty different companies and found that men who were experiencing stress and who felt that they had a lack of control over their job were 74% more likely to take time off sick with a cold. Common colds are one of the biggest causes of short bouts of work related sickness absence in the UK. Common cold infections are so widespread that there are very few people who escape the infection each year and a recent survey suggested that flu and other minor ailments accounted for 84% of the days off in the UK.


The team from South Korea who undertook the research thought that the difference between men and women may be because men are more likely to 'overrate' common cold symptoms whilst women tend to be more stoical in their response. People experiencing stress are also more likely to smoke, drink heavily or eat unhealthy foods - all of these may contribute to their susceptibility to catching common cold bugs.


Stress and depression are the biggest cause for longer term absence in the UK with 1 in 4 employees experiencing problems. This is not just distressing for the person involved - it can make them less productive at work and is responsible for high rates of sick-leave, accidents and staff turnover.


Commenting on their findings, Dr Olivia Carlton, President of the Society of Occupational Medicine said "Stress of any kind, including work related stress may affect your immune system and be a potential risk factor for the common cold and other illnesses; further studies on this are needed. However the real issue here is that managers in the workplace need to understand how to identify employees who are experiencing stress and help those who are affected. We need to remove the stigma associated with psychological health conditions - they are common and can happen to anyone at anytime in their life. There are solutions and it's important that staff feel able to seek support."


Occupational Health staff will know about the particular stresses and strains of the work environment and have experience of sensitive issues such as workplace confidentiality, job security and the timing of the return to part-time or full-time working. They are ideally placed to advise managers about how to manage staff with psychological problems and can also work closely with family doctors or other specialist health services.