Stress in the workplace can compromise health, and participating in a lunch-time stress management program can reduce stress and improve well-being, according to a study published in Hypertension (2007; 49, 291–97).
Researchers from the department of clinical science at the University of Milan in Italy compared 91 white-collar workers in a downsizing work environment with 79 healthy control subjects to determine whether stress undermined health by impacting the nervous system before more obvious signs of heart disease became apparent. Sure enough, the researchers identified a relationship between work-related stress and dysfunctions of the autonomic nervous system believed to precede development of hypertension.
Investigators took the study one step further and tested a lunch-time, onsite stress management program to evaluate whether participation could reduce the adverse effects of stress. For this step, a subgroup of stressed employees took part in either an authentic relaxation and cognitive restructuring program or a sham program. Participants in the authentic program reversed their stress symptoms, while those in the sham program did not.
The study authors recommended that more research of this type be conducted on much larger populations over longer periods of time. What is significant about this study is that it provides a method for identifying those suffering from workplace stress and a program to alleviate the symptoms.