17 February 2012

Being CEO is bad for your health

According to an author on CEO's, the average week of a CEO is dominated by 12 emotions of a possible 34 000 including intense stress, frustration, disappointment and irritation.


According to Steve Tappin, author of The Secrets of CEOs, the vast majority of the average Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO) week is dominated by 12 emotions of a possible 34 000 including intense stress, frustration, disappointment, irritation and overwhelm.

“In response to these emotions, the body secretes an increased amount of cortisol, also known as the steroid stress hormone. Numerous studies have linked chronic cortisol secretion to heart attacks, cancer and metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In short, the study shows that being a CEO could in fact be bad for your health,” says Professor Jacques Snyman, Executive for Zurreal4employers, an employee wellness and management programme.

From a local perspective however, it would seem that these health risks extend far beyond the corporate boardroom. A 2011 Ipsos Global and Reuters survey found South Africa to be the 3rd most workaholic nation in the world following Australia (2nd) and Japan (1st). The results strongly suggest that working South Africans could be exposing themselves to the same health risks as global CEOs.

“Further aggravating the situation is that workaholics are more likely to show up for work while ill, ignore obvious health warning signs to avoid taking a day off and are less likely to seek medical advice, believing that the problem will simply disappear in time. Combined with the aforementioned health risks that workaholics typically predispose themselves to, we’re looking at a potentially lethal cocktail,” Snyman emphasises.

Long-term implications

From an employer’s point of view, the long-term implications could be equally devastating in the form of eventual absenteeism, presenteeism and lost productivity. The solution generally requires remedial action which implies workplace intervention including counselling sessions to assist employees in establishing a healthy work/life balance and equipping ‘workaholics’ with the necessary coping skills.

The integration of a company wellness programme in partnership with the healthcare providing medical scheme could also go a long way in ensuring that employees access the appropriate care timeously.

“A good wellness programme will assist employers to proactively identify individuals at risk of burnout and refer them to a professional assistance programme generally headed by a psychologist before it’s too late. Key to the identification process is the integration of all touch points of assessment including human resources data such as stresses in the home or lifestyle; behavioural data such as absenteeism, work hours and annual leave taken; and clinical data collected from self-reported health assessments. The aim is to identify the ‘workaholics’ and not leave them to their own devices to eventually seek help as, by this time, it may be too late,” Snyman concludes.

(Press release, February 2012)


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