Stress hits half Down Under

July 26, 2002

Half of Australia's academics are at risk of psychological illness as a result of extreme stress and over-work, a national survey has said.

In the survey, staff reported a variety of health problems caused by workplace stress. These ranged from headaches and sleeping disorders to hypertension and coronary heart disease.

More than 30 per cent of academics work 55 hours or more a week, the survey says. Psychological strain is highest and job satisfaction lowest among lecturers and senior lecturers, especially in humanities and social sciences.

The survey found that 50 per cent of staff were at risk of psychological illness from work. This compares with 19 per cent of Australians overall.

The report says that most academics are dissatisfied with their hours, promotion chances, pay, labour relations and management. Trust in senior managers and in procedural fairness are low.

The survey, funded by the Australian Research Council, was a joint effort between researchers at three universities, the Sydney Stress Management Centre and the National Tertiary Education Union. Almost 9,000 academics and general staff in 17 universities participated.

"In recent years, cuts to government funding have resulted in increased workloads for many academics," said research leader Tony Winefield. "Academics now experience excessive working hours, lack of resources, high student-to-staff ratios and a growing sense of insecurity."

Professor Winefield, a psychologist at the University of South Australia, said the survey revealed the human costs of Australia's higher education funding crisis.

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