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31 October 2016

What is the most stressful job in SA?

You won't believe which the most stressful jobs are . . .

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We all have times when we feel our jobs are demanding and stressful. Between meeting deadlines, completing reports and attending meetings your job might be detrimental to your health. But what is the most stressful job in the country?

According to a new survey conducted by mental wellness advocate Pharma Dynamics, the three most stressful occupations are not in a corporate environment, but are pilots, hair stylists and farmers.

Read: Stress adds years to your face

Several triggers

Almost 2 000 respondents living and working in South Africa participated in the survey on Health24, which aimed to measure job-related stress based on several stress triggers.

These included factors such as:

  • The physical and mental demands of the job, including deadlines
  • The amount of travelling required
  • The number of hours spent working
  • Being exposed to public scrutiny
  • Dealing with conflict
  • The risks associated with the profession  

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson for the pharmaceutical firm specialising in central nervous system medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety, says it was interesting to see where various professions were plotted on the stress chart.

“To some, certain occupations might not appear to be stressful, while in reality they are. Sitting behind a desk all day might seem like a cozy job, but many white-collar professions can produce an enormous amount of stress,” she says.

Read: Could stress be mistaken for ADHD in SA? 

From pilots to farmers

Based on the findings, pilots claimed the top spot overall, largely due to the high degree of personal risk the job poses to themselves and others. The taxing physical and mental demands of the work, on top of working long and arduous hours, also added to its high stress rating.

Hair stylists, who came in at second place, also have it rough. Most cited the degree of competitiveness in the industry, unmanageable deadlines and the constant pressure of working in the public eye as reasons for their stress. The environment in which most salons operate is often fast-paced, and exposes hair stylists to unhealthy fumes and noise, which could potentially add to their already high levels of anxiety. The job is also physically demanding as it requires a lot of standing, and many suffer from chronic back pain as a result.

Farm life with its country setting is often idealised, but as the pace of agriculture increases along with the unescapable threat of global warming, it comes as no surprise that farming is rated as the third most stressful occupation in SA.

The least stressful

On the other end of the scale was a surprising finding. Economists, who, especially in the current economic climate, should be unbearably stressed, appear to be the least stressed among the 40+ professions that were included in the survey.

Dealing with stress

“To many, persistent stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but it shouldn’t be,” says Van Aswegen. “Make a point of measuring how much stress there is in your life by identifying the situations that cause it most, how often these occur, and what you can do to prevent it.”  

Other coping mechanisms include:

  • Walking away when you are angry before reacting
  • Exercising. Physical activity increases the production of endorphins which will give your mood a guaranteed boost.
  • Resting your mind by turning off multi-media devices completely, or at least limiting screen time
  • Reaching out to friends and family by letting them know you’re having a tough time at work
  • Making time for enjoyable activities every day
  • Getting enough sleep – at least eight hours a night

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