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How the stress of work might really make you sick

Oct. 25, 2011 at 8:41 AM ET

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Is work stress literally making you sick?

The stress and strain of work really could be taking a physical toll on you, and you may be surprised to find exactly what it is about work that hurts in various parts of your body.

Researchers who examined more than 70 studies looking at the relationship between work and illness, found that long hours and a heavy workload were clearly correlated with illness, according to a post on PsyBlog.

They did find that the typical factors we associate with stress — such as long hours and a heavy workload — are correlated with illness and physical ailments such as headaches and stomach problems.

The researchers found that "organizational constraints" like not having the time or authority to reach the goals set for you are most strongly associated with physical symptoms, especially gastrointestinal problems and fatigue.

The researchers also saw strong correlations between role conflict — when your boss tells you to do one thing and another person gives you different instructions — and tummy troubles. Co-worker conflict was associated with having trouble sleeping.

Researchers are hesitant to say that work stress causes illness and physical ailments, since in most cases the studies look only at the correlation between stress and illness.

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