High Stress Linked to Spiraling Health Care Costs

How often have you heard someone say, "I perform better under stress." But with lingering economic sluggishness and ongoing terrorist fears, how much stress can we actually handle?

Seventy-five percent of Americans now describe their jobs as stressful, and evidence is linking stress to high health care costs. In a recent six-year study of over 46,000 workers from 22 major organizations, depression and unmanaged stress emerged as the top two most costly risk factors in terms of medical expenditures.

According to Workforce magazine, health care spending by employers averaged $5,266 per employee in 2001. That figure is expected to rise at least 13 percent to 16 percent in 2002. Seven of the top 10 selling drugs worldwide are either anti-depressants or anti-ulcer medications, with stress a prime factor in the need for both. Add to this the American Institute of Stress's estimate that now 75 percent to 90 percent of all doctor visits are stress-related and it is clear that chronic stress is a costly way of life for many people.

Bruce Cryer, an expert in personal and organizational performance, is CEO of HeartMath. For over a decade, HeartMath has researched the relationship between stress, emotions, health and performance. Results from HeartMath studies have been published in journals such as Harvard Business Review, Journal of Innovative Management and Stress Medicine. Their data demonstrates that emotional stress has an immediate effect on workplace performance and contributes to health problems which employers absorb as rising health care costs.

"We have seen our client organizations reduce stress on overworked executives and staff, while simultaneously improving productivity and morale," says Cryer.

In six months of HeartMath training at a Motorola manufacturing facility, 93 percent of employees demonstrated increased productivity, 90 percent experienced better teamwork, and 93 percent reported higher levels of health, including more energy, less tension, fewer physical problems and less need for medication. Defects on a manufacturing line also decreased by 22 percent.

Cryer is also the co-author of the book, "From Chaos to Coherence: The Power to Change Performance." In the book he advises, "Corporate management today is becoming aware of both the physiological andfinancial consequences of unmanaged emotional stress. Sometimes these effects can be severe, even life threatening at the highest levels of some of the most successful organizations. Company leaders cannot afford to perceive stress management as merely a soft skill. It has become a critical business issue if companies are to remain viable in a time of unprecedented change and transformation,"

The good news, he says, is stress can be reduced while performance is enhanced. "Targeting this source of soaring health care and human costs is an intelligent strategy," he adds.

For more information, visit www.heartmath.com.

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