From the CEO
Last fall, APA released the findings from its most recent annual survey on stress in America. The results indicated that work is Americans' No. 1 source of stress. In fact, a full 74 percent of respondents reported that work is their top stressor, compared with 59 percent in 2006: A big jump in one year, to say the least. Researchers have long known that stress can set off a cascade of harmful effects-and survey respondents agree. Seventy-seven percent noted they experienced stress-related physical symptoms including fatigue, headaches and digestion problems during the month before the survey. In addition, 73 percent reported psychological symptoms including irritability, anxiety and a lack of energy. What's more, about half of the respondents said stress negatively affected their relationships with spouses or partners.
As scientists and practitioners, psychologists have been at the forefront of helping to alleviate workplace stress and improve the quality of life for the many Americans who feel crushed by the demands of their jobs. This includes conducting groundbreaking research, elucidating the conditions that are best for employees, and assisting employees in developing strategies to cope with high-stress jobs. We also share our findings with policy-makers and one another, an important step toward really making a difference in the lives of stressed Americans. With regard to sharing and disseminating our findings on workplace stress, APA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are co-sponsoring the annual International Work, Stress and Health Conference, set for March 6-8, 2008, in Washington, D.C., with continuing-education workshops on March 5.
This is the seventh year APA and NIOSH have hosted the conference, which seeks to disseminate research on the impact work stress has on our lives and health. This year, the Society on Occupational Health Psychology (SOHP) is joining us in sponsorship, launching a partnership that we hope will continue with future conferences.
Putting research into practice
With a theme of "Healthy and Safe Work through Research, Practice and Partnerships," the conference will feature more than 500 papers and posters from around the world. Topics include best practices in creating healthy workplaces, the benefits of allowing for flexible work schedules, and how to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities. I'm particularly excited about the conference's opening session, which will lay out the importance of translating our research into practical changes in American workplaces. Experts who will weigh in on the issue include NIOSH Director John Howard, MD; Robin Baker, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley; Daniel Conti, PhD, director of JP Morgan Chase's employee-assistance program; and Mary L. Durham, PhD, director of Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research.
A growth area for psychology
Tackling workplace stress will be an ongoing challenge for psychology, and graduate student and early-career psychologist involvement are keys to long-term success. The conference will feature a number of opportunities for those new to the field who want to begin getting up to speed. For example, there will be a preconference workshop on finding, writing and securing grant funding for occupational health research. Students, early-career psychologists and others wanting to enter the field may wish to attend the conference luncheon on careers in occupational health psychology. Soon, graduate students will also be able to find jobs, fellowships and other opportunities in occupational health through a new Web site, thanks to a collaboration between SOHP and its graduate student issues committee. In sum, the conference will highlight the many roles psychologists can play in the understanding and reduction of workplace stress. We clearly have the opportunity to make a big difference in the health and happiness of those 74 percent of Americans who cite work as the No. 1 source of stress. Please join me in exploring new ways we can help.