The Center for Social Epidemiology Celebrates 35 Years of Promoting the Science of Work Stress Prevention

LOS ANGELES, June 7, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Thirty-five years ago, Dr. Peter Schnall, world-renowned social epidemiologist, launched the nonprofit foundation, the Center for Social Epidemiology. The Center’s mission is to make visible the over 40 years of scientific evidence that working conditions cause work stress, and that chronic work stress affects worker health, including contributing to anxiety, depression, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Over 120,000 people are estimated to die annually in the U.S. from illnesses related to work. More than 10-20% of cardiovascular deaths among working-age populations are due to work.

“Work stress is making people sick, and it’s time that working people and leaders find out that it doesn’t have to be this way. The way companies manage their workforces can be changed to reduce stress and improve mental and physical health,” says Dr. Peter Schnall.

But how do we get to healthy work? Of course, it does not happen overnight, but there are many strategies businesses and other organizations can implement.

Work must be free from physical and psychosocial hazards. In the European Union and many other high and middle-income countries, there are standards and regulations for limiting workplace stress and protecting mental health. In the U.S. we are just starting to see government agencies (see the NIOSH Total Worker Health® program and the recent US Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health) and even some business leaders, acknowledge that workplace mental health is as important as physical health and that the workplace contributes to mental ill health.

In 2018, along with Dr. Marnie Dobson and other colleagues, the CSE launched the Healthy Work Campaign to educate workers, unions, and organizations, and to provide free tools – such as the Healthy Work Survey – and many other resources to encourage healthy work. The HWC provides guidance to employers, unions, and worker advocates, in both the private and public sectors, about how to conduct a “healthy work campaign” within their workplace.

Based on recent scientific evidence on organizational interventions, the Healthy Work Campaign recommends some important steps to take to reduce work stress and develop healthy work in any organization.

  1. Learn about chronic work stress, its health and productivity impacts that result in the loss of billions of dollars annually in the U.S.
  2. Listen to your employees. Find a safe way for employees to share their experiences on the job about sources of stress – check out the free, anonymous, online Healthy Work Survey with automated reports of group results.
  3. Prioritize: Don’t try to change everything all at once, prioritize 1 or 2 areas for improvement – with employee input.
  4. Train top- and middle-level managers and supervisors on healthy work practices including checking in with employees, communicating safely and effectively, and reducing work stressors.
  5. Re-evaluate – Did the changes you implement work or hurt? Are they sustainable? Listen to employees, talk with managers, and re-assess work stress on an annual basis.

The CSE and the HWC team look forward to the next 35 years guiding organizational leaders, unions and workers to prioritize employee health and well-being by reducing harmful work stress and creating healthy workplaces.

Media Contact:

Zach Schnall

SOURCE Healthy Work Campaign