How cool is your profession? A new study has found that stress at workplace has become the number one cause of long-term absence from work.

The study, carried out in almost 600 organisations in the U.K., also found a link between job security and mental health issues, with employers planning redundancies “significantly” more likely to report problems among their staff.

Stress has even eclipsed stroke, heart attack, cancer and back problems, the research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and health firm Simplyhealth found and dubbed the condition the 21st century equivalent of the “Black Death”.

Stress-related absence has increased more in the public sector, and restructuring and organisational changes were the main causes, the report said, highlighting the impact of cuts in jobs, pay and pensions, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Dr. Jill Miller, a CIPD adviser, said, “The survey this year shows that stress is for the first time the number one cause of long-term sickness absence, highlighting the heightened pressure many people feel under in the workplace as a result of the prolonged economic downturn.

“Stress is a particular challenge in the public sector, where the sheer amount of major change and restructuring would appear to be the root cause.

“To a large degree, managing stress is about effective leadership and people management, particularly during periods of major change and uncertainty.

“Line managers need to focus on regaining the trust of their employees and openly communicating throughout the change process to avoid unnecessary stress and potential absences.

“They also need to be able to spot the early signs of people being under excessive pressure or having difficulty coping at work and to provide appropriate support.”

Gill Phipps, of Simplyhealth, said, “Stress can often have a negative effect on the workplace, which can result in loss of productivity and disengaged employees.

“It’s therefore encouraging that almost half of employers have a well-being strategy in place, with 73 per cent offering counselling services and a further 69 per cent providing an employee assistance programme.

“These benefits allow employees access to information and advice on workplace issues as well as emotional, psychological and personal issues, and can be a huge help during difficult times.

“Employers need to ensure that benefits such as these are communicated effectively to staff in order for employees to get the most from them.”

Absence levels were lowest in manufacturing firms at fewer than six days per worker per year, the research found.