Stress is the psychological, physiological and behavioural response by an individual when they perceive a lack of equilibrium between demands placed upon them and their ability to meet those demands. (,P.,aIm..eL1 9.9.2., p39)

The results of stress will depend upon the individual, the type of stress, and its duration. Whilst moderate stress or pressure may improve performance and health, high levels of stress over a period of time may lead to ill health. What constitutes a high level of stress varies from individual to individual.

The medical profession is recognized as being stressed. However, there has been little research on the effects on health of the interaction of physical and psychosocial factors at work, and little hard evidence to show that morbidity or mortality is increased by overwork or stress ( Pa.yQe.and FirthiCozeQs 1987). Studies show that doctors have twice as many road accidents, three times the incidence of cirrhosis and suicide, and 30 times the incidence of drug addiction compared with the general population. Nurses have the highest suicide rate among professional groups and top the list of psychiatric out-patient referrals. Some of these statistics are undoubtably caused by occupational stress.

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