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Job stress a more likely cause of "sick building syndrome"

http://www.100md.com   2006-3-24 xinhuanet

     BEIJING, March 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Is the building you work in making you sick? Probably not, British researchers say, but your job might be.

    Job stress is a more likely cause of the so-called "sick building syndrome" than physical environment, a latest UK study shows.

    People often blame the quality of buildings and their facilities, such as air-conditioning, for a range of symptoms that include headaches, coughs, tired or itchy eyes, runny noses or inexplicable tiredness.

    In fact, job stress is a more likely cause of the cluster of symptoms known as "sick building syndrome" than physical environment, the research team reports in Thursday's issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a journal published by the British Medical Association.

    In the study, more than 4,000 civil servants, aged between 42 and 62 and working in 44 buildings across London, were questioned about their health.

    They were asked to list any symptoms of sick building syndrome, the physical properties of their offices and the demands of their job, including how well they were supported at work.

    Separately, most of the buildings were also assessed by independent field workers. They checked temperature, lighting intensity, levels of airborne bacteria, fungi and dust, humidity, ventilation flow, noise level and concentrations of carbon dioxide and airborne organic chemicals.

    There was some slight evidence that those who reported high levels of the symptoms worked in offices that were too hot and dry and had relatively high levels of airborne bacteria and dust.

    But the biggest factors linked with the symptoms, the researchers found, were job stress and lack of support in the workplace.

    "Sick building syndrome may be wrongly named," say the authors. "Raised symptom reporting appears to be due less to poor physical conditions than to a working environment characterised by poor psycho-social conditions."

    If sick building syndrome may not exist, its symptoms do, and they cost companies dearly in lost production, the researchers warn.

    The lesson for bosses is that when such symptoms come to light, they should look to causes that go beyond the office's physical design and operation and delve into more complex areas, such as job roles and the autonomy of the workforce. Enditem

    (Agencies)

    Editor: Nie Peng

 
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