Revealed: The most stressful job in SA

Cape Town - Stress is an unwelcome factor in any profession and in South Africa pilots have a particularly rough ride, while economists appear to be the most chilled.

This is according to a new survey aimed at measuring job-related stress based on several stress triggers, which were used to indicate the stress levels of a profession. About 2 000 people participated in the survey.

They survey, which was conducted by mental wellness advocate Pharma Dynamics, included factors such as:

- Physical and mental demands of a job;
- Deadlines;
- How much traveling is required;
- Whether it entails working long hours;
- Being exposed to public scrutiny;
- Dealing with conflict;
- What type of risks are associated with various professions.

“To some, certain occupations might not appear to be stressful, while in reality they are," said Pharma Dynamics spokesperson Mariska van Aswegen. "Sitting behind a desk all day might seem like a cosy job, but many white-collar professions can produce an enormous amount of stress.”

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 role, on top of working long and arduous hours, also added to its high stress rating.

Surprisingly, at the other end of the scale economists, who under the dire current economic climate should be stressed beyond measure, appear to be the least stressed among the 40+ professions included in the survey.

Hair stylists, who came in at second place, also have a tough time. 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 great of standing, leading many stylists to suffer from chronic back pain.

As the pace of agriculture increases along with the inescapable threat of global warming, it comes as no surprise that farming counts among the third most stressful occupations in SA.

Despite not all jobs requiring the same level of stress and effort, Van Aswegen said stress remains an unwelcome part of any profession.

“Of particular concern, however, is the high level of stress that participants across various career fields reported. More than 31% referred to their jobs as extremely stressful, 40% described their job-stress as mild, while only 29% cited work-stress as manageable."
Van Aswegen warned that chronic stress can have a long-term effect on the mind and body, and when stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life, it becomes even more dangerous.

"If you experience constant job strain, it increases the stress hormone, cortisol, which affects many brain functions and could in turn increase your risk of depression and anxiety," she warned.

Van Aswegen also provided some stress-busting measures such as:
- Walking away when you are angry before reacting;
- Exercising – physical activity increases the production of endorphins which will give your mood an instant 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; and
- Getting enough shut-eye – at least eight hours a night.

She advised those feeling overwhelmed by job stress to seek professional help.

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