€3.99 million project launched to reduce work stress

30 January 2020
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The new research aims at reducing stress in the work place

A new research project, which aims at reducing stress in the work place, has been launched at Hull York Medical School and the University of York. EMPOWER: a European platform to PromOte Wellbeing and Health in the workplace brings together leading researchers across Europe to tackle this important issue.

Over 12.8 million days are lost at work a year in the UK alone because of work related stress, depression or anxiety according to a report by the Health and Safety Executive in 2019*. The same report indicated that 602,000 workers reported suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/19 with causes being-cited including workload, lack of support and changes at work.

Professor Christina van der Feltz-Cornelis, Professor of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Hull York Medical School and one of the University of York’s inspirational research leaders, leads the UK based part of the project. She says, ‘work related stress is a significant issue and by bringing together researchers from across Europe we can further our understanding but also develop interventions to reduce work related stress – benefiting employees, employers, policy makers and other stakeholders.’

Christina’s team in the Mental Health and Addiction Group (MHARG) at the University of York will design a web-based intervention to reduce work related stress and to prevent work related mental health disorders in the workplace, in close collaboration with 12 European partners and key stakeholders. The intervention will address several factors, such as stigma, workplace conditions and psychosocial factors, stress, common mental health symptoms, and comorbidity that interfere with work mental health and wellbeing.

Christina goes on to say, ‘our aim is to develop an online modular platform which can be used in various workplace settings and which will address key factors such as awareness, early detection, lifestyle, and returning to work after sickness absence – thereby benefitting employees, employers, policy makers and other stakeholders’.

EMPOWER will implement this intervention through a randomized controlled trial amongst employees and employers of small and medium-sized enterprises and public agencies from three European countries – Spain, Finland and Poland. The main outcomes of EMPOWER will help employees, employers and policymakers in decision processes in new legal and contractual developments at EU and a national level in the new economic era.

EMPOWER, has been made possible due to €3.99M funding by the EU Horizon 2020 programme. Led by the CIBERSAM Research, Innovation and Teaching Unit

in Barcelona, Spain, it is a multidisciplinary research and innovation effort which aims to improve workplace conditions and employee mental health and well-being at the workplace.

Professor Una Macleod, Dean of Hull York Medical School, believes research collaborations are an important element of health related research. She says, ‘if we as researchers and practitioners want to make a real difference to the lives of patients we must work in partnership - sharing knowledge and expertise and working together to develop new and innovative approaches. I am delighted with this collaboration’.