The consequences of stress

The Consequences of Stress for the Organization

Work-related mental health problems constitute one of the main challenges currently faced by organizations, particularly because of their serious consequences-and-extent for these organizations and for individuals. Indeed, it has been found that there is a direct link between stress and heart disease, dissatisfaction at work, accidents and certain forms of cancer. In addition to having impacts on the individuals concerned, work-related mental health problems are the main causes of the increase in absenteeism rates.


  • In a corporate opinion poll, conducted in early 2000, 62% of 1506 randomly chosen people from across Canada participating in group insurance plans said that they were very stressed at work while 64% said that they were irritable or anxious.
  • The results of a survey of 281 Canadian organizations (700 000 employees) show that the direct costs of absenteeism have increased since 1997 and currently represent 7.1% of the wage bill. If the indirect costs (overtime, replacements, decreased productivity, etc.) are added to the direct costs, the total cost of mental health problems comes to 17% of the wage bill.
  • Between 1990 and 2001, the number of claims accepted by the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST, workers' compensation board) as employment injuries related to stress, burn-out or other psychological factors more than doubled, from 530 to 1082, and payments increased from $1.5 to $6.9 million per year.
  • Surveys on the health and well-being of Québeckers conducted by Santé Québec between 1987 and 1998 show that incapacity for work due to mental health problems nearly doubled, from 7% to 13%.
  • Surveys on the health and well-being of Québeckers conducted by Santé Québec reveal that the average number of workdays lost per person due to mental health problems more than tripled between 1992 and 1998, increasing from 7.4 to 24.6 days per 100 persons, a 200% increase.
  • In the United States, the average duration of leave due to stress is four times greater than the amount of leave resulting from occupational injuries and industrial disease.
  • In Canada, nearly 500 000 workers are absent from work each week due to work-related mental health problems.
  • In Canada, the social costs attributable to work-related mental health problems have increased to more than $20 billion annually and in Quebec only, these costs have reached nearly $4 billion annually.


This increase in incidental absences as well as short-term and long-term disabilities unquestionably leads to a decline in the morale of the troops and thus in productivity and the quality of work. Moreover, organizations incur additional costs for temporary staff and overtime.


Finally, as regards the impact of work-related mental health problems on group insurance plans, it should be recalled that in addition to wage loss insurance, insurers defray the costs of drugs and treatments. In 1995, between 5% and 10% of all drug costs covered by an insurer were related to mental health, that is, approximately $50 million annually. The amounts paid to cover psychologists' fees were estimated to be approximately $25 million annually.