Heightened stress brings many clients to massage therapy, and research has shown massage relieves stress and depression while boosting mood and a sense of well-being. New data show employees in both the U.S. and Canada are increasingly stressed.

A study by Concordia University economists, published in BMC Public Health, has found that increased job stress causes workers to increasingly seek help from health professionals for physical, mental and emotional ailments. The number of visits to health care professionals is up to 26 per cent for Canadian workers in high-stress jobs, according to a university press release.

To reach their conclusions, the economists crunched nationally representative data from the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS). All NPHS figures were restricted to adults aged 18 to 65 years—the bulk of the labor force—and included statistics on the number of health care visits, chronic illnesses, marital status, income level, smoking and drinking habits, according to the press release.

“These results show that people in medium-to-high stress jobs visit family doctors and specialists more often than workers with low job stress,” says first author Sunday Azagba, a Ph.D. candidate in the Concordia Department of Economics.

“We believe an increasing number of workers are using medical services to cope with job stress,” said co-author Mesbah Sharaf, also a Ph.D. candidate in the Concordia Department of Economics.

In the United States, recent polls found that 70 per cent of American workers consider their workplace a significant source of stress, whereas 51 per cent report job stress reduces their productivity, according to the press release.

“It is estimated that health care utilization induced by stress costs U.S. companies $68 billion annually and reduces their profits by 10 per cent,” said Sharaf.

Total health care expenditures in the U.S. amount to $2.5 trillion, or $8,047 per person. “That represents 17.3 per cent of the 2009 gross domestic product—a nine-percent increase from 1980,” said Azaga.

“There is medical evidence that stress can adversely affect an individual’s immune system, thereby increasing the risk of disease,” Sharaf said. “Numerous studies have linked stress to back pain, colorectal cancer, infectious disease, heart problems, headaches and diabetes. Job stress may also heighten risky behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, discourage healthy behaviors such as physical activity, proper diet and increase consumption of fatty and sweet foods.”

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