Work-related stress accounts for 45% of all sickness absence with just under 12 million working days lost per year, Professor Gail Kinman told the Physiological Society in London.
She added: “There are also major implications for organisations, as stress is linked to high turnover of staff, poor job performance and low motivation, as well as sickness absence.”
She pointed out that workers in the public sector, such as nurses, teachers and social workers, are more vulnerable to stress as they are struggling with increasing demands and diminishing resources and are very much in the public eye.
“The effects of stress can be very serious. Over time, stress can impact on mental and physical health and contribute to breakdown of relationships with family and friends.” said Professor Kinman.
She delivered the Under Pressure: Making Sense of Stress lecture alongside Professor Stafford Lightman, an expert on biological aspects of stress from the University of Bristol.
Professor Kinman said: “The burden of stress for society in general is also high in terms of early retirement and healthcare costs.
"For a healthy society, it is vital to reduce the sources of stress and introduce interventions that help organisations and employees manage stress more effectively.”