Thursday, July 13, 2006
The black plague of the 21st century
From an article in The Independent:
Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) is a newly recognised workplace disorder caused by the pressure of modern office life. When the pressure gets too great, fear takes over as the driving force, and the result, it’s suggested, can be ADT, a perpetual state of low-level panic, guilt and fear, with difficulty in organising, setting priorities and managing time. The article reports on research on this at Manchester University and Imperial College, London.
As many as one in three employees, especially managers, may have some symptoms of the disorder, but it’s claimed whole organisations can be engulfed by it. It’s a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live, say psychiatrists. ADT joins a growing list of workplace health problems that now include stress, anxiety, burnout, bullying, workaholism, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress. With one in five managers at risk of depression, 12 per cent of them having a major depression and more than 6.5 million working days lost in Britain each year due to stress alone, mental ill-health has become a significant problem.
In six years, the number of mental illness problems being seen by occupational physicians has trebled. The physicians are seeing three times as many new cases of people with stress and mental illness as they were six years ago ~ 36.7 per cent compared with 11.4 per cent.
Illness rates, especially anxiety and depression, were higher than expected among managers, secretaries and clerks, and people employed in the financial industry and in education.
Dr Hallowell, who runs the Centre for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Massachusetts, says that new technologies like e-mail, voicemail and instant messaging are contributing to the problem.
Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, says the problem of mental ill health in the workplace is reaching epidemic proportions. “We all know there is a big problem going on. It is the new disease ~ the black plague of the 21st century.” He says there are a number of causes: “Change, and change over which people feel they have no control, is a significant cause of stress. Twenty years ago, we had a nine-to-five culture with an hour off for lunch. We did not have the new technology that overloads us. Jobs were also relatively secure, while now they are intrinsically insecure."