Exercise remains the most common method of dealing with stress.
Johannesburg - Work is the leading stress factor for graduate professionals in the country.

This is according to the third annual Profmed Stress Index that also shows that nearly one in 10 of workers take time off work from stress-related illness.

The 2016 edition of the index, compiled from survey responses of nearly 3 000 of Profmed’s professional membership base, revealed that almost 32 percent of respondents rank work as their highest stress factor.

Profmed is a restricted medical aid scheme that is open to professionals who have obtained a postgraduate qualification.

Work replaced health and family as the leading cause of stress in 2015 and 2014, respectively, which is unsurprising given the economic climate, chief executive and principal officer at Profmed, Graham Anderson says.

“Graduate professionals in South Africa are increasingly under a huge amount of strain, largely driven by worsening economic conditions experienced in 2016.

“As companies look to tighten their belts, professionals find themselves having to take on several additional responsibilities and workloads, which can often seem overwhelming,” he said.

Anderson says there were other areas of concern in this year’s index, including a rise in the proportion of people who have missed work due to stress and those who felt they were not managing their stress levels well.

Read also: Work stress costs SA R40bn

Nearly 10 percent of respondents this year said they had taken off from work in the past six months due to stress-related illnesses, up from 7.64 percent in 2015.

There was an increase of 3 percentage points in people who said they were unable to manage their stress well, up to 28.3 percent this year.

“We strongly encourage people to learn more about the effects of stress and the techniques that can be used to reduce it. Stress can lead to several physical and emotional health consequences such as hypertension, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and depression,” Anderson says.

However, Anderson says it was encouraging to see that exercise had remained the most common method of dealing with stress.

“Exercise not only improves your physical well-being but also your mental health. Studies have shown it releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, increases levels of focus and improves your sleep, all of which gives you a greater sense of control over your life,” he notes.