Mild stress can result in people being unable to work, according to research.
The study, which was completed by experts at the University of Bristol and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, shows that mild stress increases the chances of somebody going on disability payments for physical problems by 70%.
Researchers also said that it more than doubles the chances of them ending up with a psychiatric condition.
They said the results indicated a “strong graded relationship between increasing levels of psychological distress and the likelihood of being awarded a new disability pension within five years”.
The report, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, revealed that more than 25% of disability pensions awarded to those in the Swedish study were for a physical problem due to stress.
But almost two-thirds of payments for a psychiatric problem were caused by stress.
The authors said the link between stress and a diagnosis of a physical problem may be down to the way stress affects the body.
However, it could also be that stigma surrounding mental health issues leads some doctors and patients to prefer a physical ‘label’ for the problem.
The study involved more than 17,000 people aged 18 to 64.
During the course of the research, 649 people started receiving disability benefit – 203 for a mental health problem and the rest for physical ill health.
One in four benefits for physical illness, such as high blood pressure, angina and stroke, and almost two-thirds for mental illness, were attributable to stress.
The authors said: “Mild psychological distress may be associated with more long-term disability than previously acknowledged and its public health importance may be underestimated.”
Copyright © Press Association 2011
Journal of Epidermiology & Community Health