Estrés laboral y riqueza. Una visión internacional

Carlos Gamero Burón, Eileen Alicia Castro Minaya


Debido a la globalización, la promoción de la salud mental se ha convertido en un reto para las organizaciones privadas y públicas. Este trabajo tiene como objetivo analizar hasta qué punto el nivel de estrés soportado por los trabajadores está relacionado con la riqueza de los países en los que ejercen su actividad. Se han estimado modelos logit ordenados explicativos del nivel de estrés laboral declarado (nivel micro) introduciendo como variables explicativas distintos indicadores de riqueza nacional (nivel macro). Se han explorado los resultados al considerar indicadores alternativos de tal riqueza. Los datos proceden de la encuesta International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) en su módulo Work Orientations IV correspondiente al año 2015 y de bases de datos de organismos públicos. Una vez controladas las características individuales y de los empleos, los trabajadores residentes en países ricos declaran mayor nivel de estrés que aquellos que lo hacen en países pobres.


Due to globalization and the increase in speed at which the world operates, work environments are no more places of inspiration, satisfaction, and personal fulfillment but environments of worry and mental exhaustion due to poor recognition, lack of growth, negative environment, meaningless meetings, controlling bosses, uncomfortable workspaces, rigidity in the schedule, etc. Actually, the promotion of mental health has become a challenge for both private and public organizations. In this context, the objective of this article is to analyze to what extent employees’ stress levels are related to the wealth of the country in which they carry out their work. On one hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides a detailed definition of stress experienced at work. It is identified as a group of emotional, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral reactions to professional demands that exceed the knowledge and skills of the worker to perform optimally. On the other hand, the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicates that work-related stress is currently recognized as a global problem that affects all countries, all professions, and all workers, both in developed and developing countries. Undoubtedly, stress is present in our daily lives and is frequent in work environments. In recent decades, its negative effects on the well-being of employees and on the productivity of companies and organizations have been extensively investigated. It has been highlighted that, when stress is continuous, it damages the circulatory system, increases the likelihood of heart disease, decreases immune system functioning, repetitive motion injuries, depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. Moreover, a stressed worker has little motivation, low productivity, and less job security. In addition, the organization for which it provides its services usually has less chance of success in a market that grows in competitiveness. The aim of his article is to identify the explanatory factors of occupational stress (dependent variable) relating it to the wealth of different countries (independent variable). The microdata used comes from the survey carried out by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) in its Work Orientations IV module, corresponding to the year 2015. In general, this module includes attitudes towards work and private life, as well as the organization of work and the conditions of the respondents' jobs. The final version of the Work Orientation IV module includes data from 34 countries. The initial sample size in our analysis is 51,668 respondents with different work situations. The present study focuses exclusively on those individuals who worked as wage earners at the time of the survey, a total of 22,789 people. Once discarded the cases with missing values in the variables involved in the analysis and those with ages under 18 and over 65, the sample yields a total of 15,665 workers. The data on the wealth of nations has been obtained from organizations such as World Bank and United Nations. The variable that collects the worker's response to the subjective level of stress is ordinal in nature. This response is considered an index of the level of stress endured by the individual that is considered a latent variable. Therefore, ordered logit models have been estimated to explain the level of work-related stress declared by employees (micro level) introducing various indicators of national wealth as explanatory variables (macro level). The results have been explored using alternative wealth indicators as GDP per capita, GDP expressed in PPP, and HDI (World Bank). Before the econometric work, countries are ordered according to the percentage of workers that declare themselves as very stressed. It has been found that the most developed countries are those that appear in high positions in the ranking. Surprisingly, that is where jobs are qualified, and people enjoy greater benefits or facilities, accessibility to health, education, etc. This evidence is also supported by the graphical analysis provided. The multivariate analysis starts with estimating an ordered logit model explaining the level of stress declared by employees. This model considers as regressors the characteristics of the worker, his employment, and fictitious variables indicating the country in which they carry out their work. The results indicate, for example, that there is a statistically significant differential between men and women, with women declaring a higher level of stress than the opposite gender. With regard to the age of the respondent, the profile of the relationship with the stress level is inverted U, that is, it is middle-aged people who declare higher levels of stress, reaching the maximum at 33 years. At ages close to the previously indicated, workers must face work and financial responsibilities of greater depth and also begin to have problems achieving the reconciliation between the demands of work and family. The results also show that the level of stress is increasing with respect to the level of education. Thus, as the years of schooling increase, work stress increases because education allows access to more qualified jobs, implying greater pressure and difficulty. The results also show that people who interpret work activity only as a way to achieve economic sustenance declare a higher level of stress. There are other factors that cause the stress level to decrease. Specifically, the data show that this occurs when it is considered that the work is stable and that the salary received is high when the work is interesting and is done autonomously. They also influence the quality of personal relationships established in the workplace. They are situations that reduce stress by having personal contact with others and maintaining good relationships with the boss and co-workers. Other situations are positively related to the level of stress. With regard to the degree of reconciliation between work and family life, it is observed that the existence of interferences in the direction of the family-to-work generates stress to a greater extent than those that occur in the direction of work-to-family. In addition, suffering harassment or employment discrimination in a positive way to the level of stress at work of the individual. As regards the main objective pursued by this investigation, it is observed that, after controlling for individual and job characteristics, workers residing in rich countries report higher levels of stress than those who work in poor countries whatever the wealth indicator used. Developed countries have benefited from globalization and they enjoy better working conditions, health, and more efficient technologies. However, despite all these benefits workers live under a high-stress threshold due to their high expectations and pressure at work, competitive wages, and a constant ambition to own material goods or money. Also, there exists greater wealth inequality. The distinction of social classes implies that no one wants to stay or feel inferior, making them more competitive. In short, our empirical analysis shows that globalization has generated greater tension in work environments and, as a consequence, higher levels of stress. The measures proposed to combat it are increasingly precise and seek to favor both the worker and the employer. The implementation of these measures is much more frequent in developed countries. Despite this, stress levels are very high. This can have a subjective explanation, that is, the working population in these countries is more aware of how pernicious the stress is for their lives, so they are more "critical" when it comes to scoring their specific situation. In any case, the accelerated pace that has been integrated into more developed societies does not seem to positively impact the mental health of the population. The attempt to reach the standards established by society affects very negatively, especially the health of the working population. Since this feeling seems to be the most intimate source of labor tension, it could be difficult to address the problem without major changes in the paradigms of these societies.

© Revista de estudios regionales 2014 Universidades Públicas de Andalucía