The prevalence of work-related stress has increased significantly during the COVID-19 years, according to a follow-up study conducted by the Turku University occupational health department with the support of the Finnish Work Environment Fund. The researchers found that perceived stress has become more common, especially among teaching and healthcare professionals. About 40% of employees in these fields experience work-related stress.

The study surveyed approximately 15,000 respondents from different professions, with data from over 25,000 participants collected before the COVID-19 years as a comparison. The study revealed that the risk factors and protective factors for stress were similar in healthcare and education fields. Women and young employees experienced stress more frequently than older employees and men.

The risk of stress was increased by an excessive workload, rush and interruptions, lack of assistants and substitutes, violence and the threat of violence, and disputes, bullying, and harassment in the workplace. Conversely, work-related stress was significantly lower if the work was found interesting and inspiring, if the employee had good opportunities to influence the work and working conditions, and if peer support was strong. Stress was strongly associated with poor job satisfaction, respiratory infections, many symptoms, and many doctor-diagnosed diseases.

Employees who experienced stress used healthcare services more often, received antibiotic treatment more often, and had more extended absences than employees who did not experience stress. The study also found that employees' declining health, desire to switch professions, and their own assessment of not being able to work until retirement age were strongly related to stress.

According to the employees themselves, hiring assistants and reducing workload would help to alleviate stress in education, while healthcare professionals most often wished for better pay, less workload, and more staff in care and nursing work. The highest stress level in healthcare was found in primary healthcare, while stress was significantly lower in university hospitals. The study revealed that the prevalence of work-related stress was somewhat lower in agriculture, service industries, and lowest in firefighting, rescue work, and police work.

In conclusion, the study shows that work-related stress has increased significantly during the COVID-19 years, especially in healthcare and education fields. Risk factors and protective factors for stress were similar in these fields. Therefore, the results of the study can be used to provide guidance for occupational health and safety measures to alleviate stress in these fields.