Is It a Job to Die For?

No one can doubt Social Work is one of the most stressful jobs. Today I attended UNISON’s Regional Social Care Forum where there was a briefing on stress. Medical Research has established beyond doubt there is a causal relationship between stress, major illnesses and mortality. Stress now sits alongside asbestos and smoking as an occupational hazard. It is the second cause of all sickness absence in the UK and accounts for half of the total costs of sickness absence at £7billion.

The following illnesses are related to or are exacerbated by stress: 

  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Immune Deficiency
  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy and foetal complications (including miscarriages)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Mental illness
  • Obesity 

Some of these illnesses are killers. It was alarming to hear anecdotal evidence from union representatives of social workers in other local authorities about the levels of miscarriages, deaths of colleagues in their 40s and 50s from strokes, cancers and heart disease. I have heard many times over about how colleagues in Barnet feel very stressed. Management believes there is an issue of stress and will be running Stress Management Courses. It is also the case sickness levels in Social Services are higher than the average.


We want to gather hard evidence about stress levels in Social Services amongst ALL workers and find out what the trends are. You will be receiving a stress questionnaire shortly which we would like you to complete as soon as possible and return to the UNISON office. If you are reading this and you are not a UNISON member we still want you to complete the form. Please contact us!