Mild stress linked to long-term disability

Even relatively mild symptoms of psychological stress can lead to long-term disability, reveals a large population-based study led by academics at the University of Bristol in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm. The research is published online today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

A man showing signs of stressIt is well known that mental illnesses are associated with long-term disability, but the impact of milder presentations of stress may have been underestimated, say researchers from the University's School of Social and Community Medicine.

The research team tracked the health of more than 17,000 working-age adults up to the age of 64 between 2002 to the end of 2007, who had been randomly selected from the population in the Stockholm area.

All participants completed a validated questionnaire (GHQ-12) at the start of the study to measure their stress levels. Other aspects of health and wellbeing were also measured.

During the study period, 649 people started receiving long-term disability benefits, 203 for a mental health problem and the remainder for physical ill health.

Higher levels of stress at the start of the study were associated with a significantly greater likelihood of subsequently being awarded these long-term disability benefits.