Sick Building Syndrome…just a matter of stress?

According to a recent news item from the BBC, research printed in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal has found that symptoms associated with Sick Building Syndrome are caused by stress on the job–not physical surroundings or facility-related issues. The article states, “The study found high job demands and low levels of support were linked with high symptom rates, especially for those with little decision-making power.”

Responses to the study were collected from 4,000 civil servants from 44 buildings in and around London. Participants in the study were asked about their physical environment and the psychological pressures associated with their jobs. While hot, dry air was linked to increased symptoms, stress was seen as the most important contributor.

“Our findings suggest that, in this sample of office based workers, physical attributes of buildings have a small influence on symptoms.”

Co-author Dr Mai Stafford of the Epidemiology and Public Health department of University College London, said: “We are not making claims that buildings don’t matter for anybody.

“But for the general workforce job stress and job demands seem to have a bigger impact.

“There certainly could be buildings which do have physical properties that are very bad,” she added.

The researchers acknowledged that the quality of the Whitehall buildings they looked into could have been too good to have an adverse effect on health.

But they concluded: “When sick building syndrome symptoms come to light, managers should consider causes beyond the physical design and operation of the workplace.”