# The cost of stress

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member

Seventy-five to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, or arthritis in addition to depression and anxiety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually. The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions. http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/effects-of-stress-on-your-body Given that we tax alcohol, tobacco, and now even fat, based on the logic that the use of these products have a financial cost to society, it is interesting to note that stress is probably the single greatest cause of health problems, after genetics and aging. Do insurance companies have the right to test for stress hormones and adjust insurance rates accordingly? Also, is it possible to somehow tax people who choose highly stressful lifestyles, or who engage in highly stressful activities? Can an insurance company identify a person as a Type A personality, and charge for it? Edit: Tobacco Last edited: ## Answers and Replies drankin http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/effects-of-stress-on-your-body Given that we tax alcohol, tabacco, and now even fat, based on the logic that the use of these products have a financial cost to society, it is interesting to note that stress is probably the single greatest cause of health problems, after genetics and aging. Do insurance companies have the right to test for stress hormones and adjust insurance rates accordingly? Also, is it possible to somehow tax people who choose highly stressful lifestyles, or who engage in highly stressful activities? Can an insurance company identify a person as a Type A personality, and charge for it? I think they should charge everyone specifically to whichever group they fit into. That way those of us who aren't the big drains on the system get better deals. Why should those who are typically healthier carry those who typically aren't? I think they should charge everyone specifically to whichever group they fit into. That way those of us who aren't the big drains on the system get better deals. Why should those who are typically healthier carry those who typically aren't? Yeah, why should anyone give a **** about anyone else? Last edited by a moderator: Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member What does caring about people have to do with it? LowlyPion Homework Helper In related news: US Army base shuts down after rise in suicides http://rawstory.com/08/afp/2009/05/29/us-army-base-shuts-down-after-rise-in-suicides/ [Broken] Last edited by a moderator: Given that we tax alcohol, tobacco, and now even fat, based on the logic that the use of these products have a financial cost to society, it is interesting to note that stress is probably the single greatest cause of health problems, after genetics and aging. I don't think stress is exactly comes under the same category as "alcohol, tobacco, and now even fat" because stress can be an effect of productive work but other things are not related to productivity drankin It's my opinion that stress itself is not the issue. It's how it is dealt with. A high stress life is required to accomplish great things. If you deal with the stress with regular exercise and a decent diet, some form of psychological support (friends, sports, therapy, etc.) I think one can do fine. But if it's dealt with excessive smoking, eating, drugs, alcohol, and other destructive practices, one tends to develop health problems. drankin But, LOL, I'm hardly one to talk. Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member I don't think stress is exactly comes under the same category as "alcohol, tobacco, and now even fat" because stress can be an effect of productive work but other things are not related to productivity Presumably, productive work already yields financial benefits. So the person has been rewarded for that. But the cost to society from stress due to overwork, for example, still exists [to the tune of one bailout a year, apparently]. There is also the genetic component, which I assume exists at some level. I don't see how charging or taxing for this is any different than taxing people's addictions, or charging more for insurance based on one's health history, age, demographic, etc. Also, lifestyle choices are surely a significant factor in determining one's stress levels. A few simple tests might be, the number of hours that one works each week, the number of hours one spends in traffic each week, or even one's debt to income ratio. There must be quantitative methods for determining stress levels. Perhaps a blood test would tell as much as anything? Are stress hormones a reliable indicator? [I have only heard these being referenced. I don't know anything about it] Last edited: Too much stress=Not enough sex Presumably, productive work already yields financial benefits. So the person has been rewarded for that. But the cost to society from stress due to overwork, for example, still exists [to the tune of one bailout a year, apparently]. 1. I am assuming that personal returns are also the returns to the society. 2. Putting tax would deter people from choosing stressful lives styles so employers would have to pay more or there would be less output from those areas (which is not desirable). This makes me wonder if there would be any difference. Looking from economics perspective, I don't think taxing people with stressful lives would solve the problem. One better approach I see is to educate employers about the stress harms and I am sure most know the harms and try to prevent them by providing facilities like gyms/others to its employees. e.g. - Health and Wellness Centre and Fitness facilities - Basketball courts - Franchised coffee shops and convenience stores - A cafeteria geared towards healthy lifestyle - Outdoor Patios - Zen Garden - A medical office Last edited: In related news: http://rawstory.com/08/afp/2009/05/29/us-army-base-shuts-down-after-rise-in-suicides/ [Broken] I have heard some criticism over referencing combat and multiple tours as a cause of the hiked suicide rate. Specifically the reference in regards to the man at camp Victory who shot several people. He was an engineer, not on combat duty. Soldiers deal with alot of sources of stress being away from home and financial issues that they have little to no control over (being overseas) are just as likely contributing factors. Its quite possible that the same factors being attributed to currently high suicide rates in america in general could account for much of this. Last edited by a moderator: Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member 1. I am assuming that personal returns are also the returns to the society. Perhaps...maybe, maybe not. He might be a crooked used-car saleman. Making a personal profit is no guarantee that one is benefitting society, beyond paying taxes. The tobacco companies make a profit, pay taxes, and create jobs, but I don't hear anyone defending the tobacco industry. 2. Putting tax would deter people from choosing stressful lives styles so employers would have to pay more or there would be less output from those areas (which is not desirable). This makes me wonder if there would be any difference. Looking from economics perspective, I don't think taxing people with stressful lives would solve the problem. At 300 billion dollars a year in existing workplace losses, I think it could easily be justified - that is about$1000 a year for every US citizen. For that matter, if there was less stress, we would probably see a reduction in other problems like drinking, smoking, and drug use. Also, as indicated above, 75 to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Surely this translates into missed work days, reduced productivity, and even unpaid time off for people on very tight budgets. Finally, either punitive taxation works, or not. Part of the rationale for other taxes is that punitive taxes work.

One better approach I see is to educate employers about the stress harms and I am sure most know the harms and try to prevent them by providing facilities like gyms/others to its employees.
e.g.

You are assuming that all stress is the result of productive behavior. It is not. It may result from anything from overspending, to cheating on one's wife, to cheating on one's taxes, and perhaps even genetics [Insurance companies charge other people for diseases related to genetics, I don't see why this would be any different].

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What does caring about people have to do with it?

What does caring about people have to do with the policy of the health system? I that the question you're asking?

If you're trying to be clever it's happening the opposite effect

cristo
Staff Emeritus
In the world of health insurance, if you start charging people more if they find it harder to deal with "stress" (however you wish to define that), then isn't that tantamount to discrimination? After all, to some extent you cannot change your personality.

In the world of health insurance, if you start charging people more if they find it harder to deal with "stress" (however you wish to define that), then isn't that tantamount to discrimination? After all, to some extent you cannot change your personality.

There are already many ways in which insurance companies 'descriminate'. I'm not too familiar with medical insurance but I know car insurance companies charge differently depending on your sex, age, the area you live in, ect. Oddly enough the only variable that I know of that is actively being pursued as illegal descrimination is 'where you live'. Even though if you live in certain areas you are statistically more likely to get in a car accident it is considered racist to descriminate based upon where one lives since you are less likely to get in an accident in nicer (whiter) neighbourhoods and more likely to get in an accident in poorer (darker) neighbourhoods.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
What does caring about people have to do with the policy of the health system? I that the question you're asking?

Yes, that is what I am asking. It is entirely consistent with existing laws. Do you see any special considerations for people with diabetes, for example? How is charging more for insurance for this any different than charging more for people who live stressful lives?

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
In the world of health insurance, if you start charging people more if they find it harder to deal with "stress" (however you wish to define that), then isn't that tantamount to discrimination? After all, to some extent you cannot change your personality.

Again, I don't see that it is any different than existing laws and policies. Many people suffer from diseases that are genetically acquired, like diabetes, and they pay more for their insurance IF they can even afford to get any.

The standard is that we charge people for their lifestyle choices, as well as genetics and bad luck for that matter.

cristo
Staff Emeritus
Again, I don't see that it is any different that existing laws and policies. Many people suffer from diseases that are genetically acquired, like diabetes, but they pay more for their insurance IF they can even afford to get any.

The standard is that we charge people for their lifestyle choices, as well as genetics, or bad luck for that matter.

Yes, I suppose that's true. Of course, you could have a nationalised health system which doesn't (to the same extent) discriminate like that. I guess that's a different topic of discussion, though.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Yes, I suppose that's true. Of course, you could have a nationalised health system which doesn't (to the same extent) discriminate like that. I guess that's a different topic of discussion, though.

Or, maybe it is entirely relevant to this discussion. As you probably know, Obama wants to revamp health care. But there is also the issue of taxation for lifestyle choices. For example, smokers pay more for auto insurance, health insurance, and they pay additional taxes for the product they buy.

Given that some people who have suffered severe health problems from smoking can be found smoking through their trache tube, I'm not even convinced that smoking is a choice in all cases.

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drankin
In the world of health insurance, if you start charging people more if they find it harder to deal with "stress" (however you wish to define that), then isn't that tantamount to discrimination? After all, to some extent you cannot change your personality.

Yes, it is discrimination. Not all discrimination is bad, as if the word itself poisons anything it refers to.

I don't know that insurance companies will ever get into personality profiles. I don't see that as helping them. They are typically interested in prevention to keep the final bill down and offering better rates if you don't participate in high risk activities. If you play you pay.

Yes, that is what I am asking. It is entirely consistent with existing laws. Do you see any special considerations for people with diabetes, for example? How is charging more for insurance for this any different than charging more for people who live stressful lives?

http://www.cvshealthresources.com/topic/africanstress [Broken]

I believe that African Americans are significantly more likely to suffer from stress related health problems (what ever the reason) and so any attempt to charge based on stress will likely be challenged as racist. Not that I think that is any more right than charging based on stress indicators to begin with.

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
http://www.cvshealthresources.com/topic/africanstress [Broken]

I believe that African Americans are significantly more likely to suffer from stress related health problems (what ever the reason) and so any attempt to charge based on stress will likely be challenged as racist.

Wouldn't that be true of tobacco and alcohol use as well? Beyond a doubt, alcohol and tobacco taxes hit the poor the hardest.

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Yes, it is discrimination. Not all discrimination is bad, as if the word itself poisons anything it refers to.

I don't know that insurance companies will ever get into personality profiles. I don't see that as helping them. They are typically interested in prevention to keep the final bill down and offering better rates if you don't participate in high risk activities. If you play you pay.

Either way you look at it, cost is based on risk. I am only following the existing logic and pointing at the elephant in the room. As I said earlier, stress is probably the single greatest cause of health problems, after genetics and aging. If the system is going to be based on risk, then stress should be the number one consideration - even before activities like smoking and drinking.

Wouldn't that be true of tobacco and alcohol use as well? Beyond a doubt, alcohol and tabacco taxes hit the poor the hardest.

It goes back to my earlier post. Car insurance companies discriminate based on age which is theoretically illegal except that they discriminate 'against' younger people as opposed to older people and younger people do not have the lobby to protect them that older people do. They discriminate based on sex but 'against' males as opposed to females and males do not have a protective lobby. They discriminate based on where you live which on the surface seems fine and does not actually target a protected demographic except that blacks and hispanics are the ones prodominantly effected and they have quite a lobby so they can fight it even though they are not directly targeted.

Smoking and drinking impact all demographics. They may effect minorities more so but I think any one would be hard pressed to show discriminatory levels of disproportion in statistics for medical purposes. They are also choices and while one can theoretically choose where one lives it is a choice with far less freedom than whether or not one smokes or drinks. Aswell the lobbies have finite resources and choose to focus their efforts on the tobacco and alcohol companies due to their targeted marketing startegies. I would not be suprised though to find out that there are lobbyists trying to hit medical insurance companies with discrimination over the issue. Its probably just a much smaller effort and in the realm of medical insurance they probably have their hands full just trying to making sure they have insurance to begin with.

Stress is certainly a multi-demographic issue aswell. The thing is that rich folk in high stress jobs probably pay for premium insurance to begin with and wouldn't even notice much if their payments were a bit higher, just as they probably have premium car insurance would not likely notice a difference there either. The pressure would come from poorer people who work in warehouses and such places where there is high stress and less income and they are less likely to be able to afford medical insurance to begin with. And then there are the union jobs and the unions have quite a voice.

Medical insurance providers instituting such a policy would suffer great political backlash and I'm sure they know it.

In related news:
http://rawstory.com/08/afp/2009/05/29/us-army-base-shuts-down-after-rise-in-suicides/ [Broken]

seems unlikely they'd be all that concerned about suicide, seeing as it's just above the "national record". but fragging it seems gets the attention of the brass.

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Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/effects-of-stress-on-your-body

Given that we tax alcohol, tobacco, and now even fat, based on the logic that the use of these products have a financial cost to society, it is interesting to note that stress is probably the single greatest cause of health problems, after genetics and aging.

Do insurance companies have the right to test for stress hormones and adjust insurance rates accordingly? Also, is it possible to somehow tax people who choose highly stressful lifestyles, or who engage in highly stressful activities?
I'd rather get the workman's comp for the work-related stress-induced health conditions. :tongue:

On a more serious note, I'm not sure how they came up with numbers suggesting that such a high percentage of office visits are ailments related to stress. That sounds like enormous hand-waving.

And, stress hormones generally are a lousy way to measure physiological responses to stress. It's something that researchers have debated for a very long time. Under chronic stress, there's an adaptation of stress hormone responses, and after a short time of being elevated, they return to baseline. Yet, the person experiencing the stressor would still self-report as being stressed. And, one of the real difficulties in studies of things like PTSD is that exposure to the stressor itself doesn't determine susceptibility to develop health problems as a result of the experience. In all likelihood, but as yet lacking solid evidence in the literature (a lot of other things have been ruled out), it still boils down to genetics in terms of susceptibility to stress. Two people can work at the same job under the same conditions, and one will complain of constantly being under stress and another will take it all in stride and not perceive it as particularly stressful at all.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
It goes back to my earlier post. Car insurance companies discriminate based on age which is theoretically illegal except that they discriminate 'against' younger people as opposed to older people and younger people do not have the lobby to protect them that older people do. They discriminate based on sex but 'against' males as opposed to females and males do not have a protective lobby. They discriminate based on where you live which on the surface seems fine and does not actually target a protected demographic except that blacks and hispanics are the ones prodominantly effected and they have quite a lobby so they can fight it even though they are not directly targeted.

Based on your logic, any risk-based assesment of insurance costs or taxes are discrimination. How is charging more for insurance for any person with a history of health problems not discrimination?

Smoking and drinking impact all demographics. They may effect minorities more so but I think any one would be hard pressed to show discriminatory levels of disproportion in statistics for medical purposes. They are also choices and while one can theoretically choose where one lives it is a choice with far less freedom than whether or not one smokes or drinks.

So then addiction is a myth?

Stress is certainly a multi-demographic issue aswell. The thing is that rich folk in high stress jobs probably pay for premium insurance to begin with and wouldn't even notice much if their payments were a bit higher, just as they probably have premium car insurance would not likely notice a difference there either. The pressure would come from poorer people who work in warehouses and such places where there is high stress and less income and they are less likely to be able to afford medical insurance to begin with. And then there are the union jobs and the unions have quite a voice.

Medical insurance providers instituting such a policy would suffer great political backlash and I'm sure they know it.

Well, since by yours and MB's statements, since it seems that we can't properly distribute the burden of the number one cause of health problems, instead we should just target the easy pickings - the poor, the under-represented, and those who suffer from deadly addictions or other problems - and impose excessive taxes and fees on them to make up the difference?

Based on your logic, any risk-based assesment of insurance costs or taxes are discrimination. How is charging more for insurance for any person with a history of health problems not discrimination?
There is a difference between discrimination and illegal discrimination. My point is that courts decide what is illegal discrimination and only those who have representation and choose to sue for discrimination will be protected.

Ivan said:
So then addiction is a myth?
No. But one chooses to smoke and chooses to drink while one does not choose where one is born or how rich the family they are born to will be. Most poor people live all or most of their lives in or near the same area where they grew up.
As I mentioned the primary target for lobbiests regarding alcohol and tobacco are going to be the companies that sell them. Not so much medical insurance companies. And on that front making sure that the poor have medical coverage to begin with is likely a greater concern than the policies of the insurance companies though the policies are probably treated as a part of the larger concern.

Ivan said:
Well, since by yours and MB's statements, since it seems that we can't properly distribute the burden of the number one cause of health problems, instead we should just target the easy pickings - the poor, the under-represented, and those who suffer from deadly addictions or other problems - and impose excessive taxes and fees on them to make up the difference?
I did not mean to make any value judgement or take any stance in this regard. I only meant to paint a picture of the concerns of the groups involved. I actually very much support the idea of socialized medicine.

Moonbear
Staff Emeritus