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Several weeks ago, CareerBuilder.com reported that an estimated 30 percent of American workers had played hooky from their jobs at least of American workers had played hooky from their jobs at least once in the past year. The online job site also reported that the stress of work caused a sizable number of those individuals to call in sick simply because of that stress.

Stress has always been part of a workplace dynamics. There is the rush to get the best jobs because they pay more and offer more prestige, which means there is stress built into most jobs.

But the workplace has rarely been as stressful as it is today.

California’s unemployment rate has been at more than 12 percent for the past year, building unprecedented angst for those seeking jobs. The longer the economy slumps, the deeper the financial hole some people find themselves in, and the more their stress rises.

Certainly, the workplace is only one of several major contributors to stress, but because of its importance in providing economic security, it may be the most significant.

Even individuals who have jobs are suffering from high stress levels. Layoffs often force them to do more with less, opportunities to improve their lives through pay increases or promotions are less likely, and companies don’t expand with new job opportunities. Now, another survey suggests that those stresses are following workers home from the job.

The survey from the American Psychological Association shows the long-term impact of stress on the physical and emotional health of workers as well as their family members. The most severe finding of the survey of 1,134 adults is that there is a troublesome trend emerging that families are underestimating the effects stress is having on the children of harried workers.

“America is at a critical crossroads when it comes to stress and our health,” says the association’s executive vice president Norman B. Anderson. “Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they experience stress at levels that exceed what they define as healthy, putting themselves at risk for developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.”

The American Psychological Association says many workers are unable to find ways of alleviating that stress and that it gets passed on to their children. Overweight children are more likely to report they worry a great deal and that they realize their parents are stressed out compared to children with normal weight levels.

The overweight children also often have more difficulty falling asleep, have more headaches, eat too little or too much and feel angrier or get into more fights than others.

And, although 32 percent of parents report that their stress levels are extreme and have an impact on their own health, many of those same parents think their kids are fine. Sixty nine percent of parents believe their children are sheltered from the stress they bring home while only 14 percent of the children say they are.

The association believes the inability of parents to acknowledge and deal with stress is now making a leap to a new generation. “It’s critical that parents communicate with their children about how to identify stress triggers and manage stress in healthy ways while they’re young and still developing behavioral patterns,” says psychologist Katherine C. Nordal. “If children don’t learn these lessons early on, it could significantly impact their physical health and emotional well-being down the road, especially as they become adults.”

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