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The Most Educated Workers Are Also the Most Stressed

More education equals more stress--at least in this economy. That's one of the findings from an annual survey of 5,000 workers by GfK Custom Research North America.

The most highly-educated workers--the ones with PhDs--were also the ones who were most likely to be stressed and most likely to be worried about work-life balance. In a somewhat worrisome note for employers, the poll also found that the employees with the most education were also the ones who were most likely to be highly-engaged. (Engagement is an important metric for companies trying to figure out how much their employees care about what they're doing, and how productive they're likely to be.) So the employees who care the most about their jobs, and who have the potential to make the biggest contributions, are precisely the ones who are most likely to stressed out.

Here are the percentages of those with PhD's who said they were worried about:

  • Job security: 30 percent
  • Having the resources to do their jobs: 30 percent
  • Stress at work: 29 percent. In this one measurement, those with masters degrees out-worried their more educated colleagues, with 39 percent of those with masters saying they frequently worried about stress at work.
  • Pressure to work long hours: 30 percent
  • Work-life balance: 33 percent

The survey also found that:

  • Older workers are most likely to be highly engaged. Younger workers are the least engaged. Some 34 percent of employees over 60 said they were highly-engaged, compared to 24 percent of those are 18 to 29. That could be because more young people felt that, because of the recession, they had to take a job they didn't particularly want. Or it could just be that entry-level work tends to be less interesting.
  • More people are quitting. Voluntary turnover--people quitting their jobs and finding new ones--seems to be rising in the business services and professional sectors, even though those employees seem to be highly engaged. This could be because some 45 percent of these workers say the recession forced them to change their life plans. They may have had to make career compromises just to keep a job or health insurance, and are now finding new positions that have the potential to get them back on track.
  • The industries with the most engaged employees are construction, professional and business services, information technology, and public utilities.
  • The industries with the least engaged employees are retail, real estate, public administration, education, and manufacturing.
  • Small business employees are much more engaged than big-company employees. Some 37 percent of employees at small companies are highly engaged, compared to 23 percent at big companies.
How's the stress level at your workplace? And have you seen more people switching jobs in your field?


Image courtesy of flickr user Carbon NYC

Kimberly Weisul is a freelance writer, editor, and editorial consultant. Follow her on twitter at