Degree Name

Master of Science (Hons.)


Graduate School of Public Health


Occupational injury causes a significant loss of resources in Australia every year. Whilst the direct social and economic costs of stress can be measured, the personal costs to the individuals concerned may be less apparent. This thesis explores the meaning of occupational stress through the experience of thirteen case study respondents. The research method employed is the qualitative approach; data were primarily collected from personal interviews with workers who had made a claim for stress at work. The data were subjected to thematic analysis.

The major findings in the three broad areas of inquiry are presented. Firstly, the crucial role that inter-personal relationships and supports at work played in the circumstances leading up to a claim for stress being made are discussed. Secondly, and most importantly, the principal finding of this study is that stress at work is associated with debilitating mental health conditions and significantly increase the risk of suicide for the individuals concerned. How stress is experienced by workers who have gone off work is the third area considered.

Two other significant findings of the study are that a lack of support and contact with their workplaces compounded the health problems for the workers concerned and that a return to work for stress injured workers is an uncertain and difficult goal. The findings of the study suggest that much can be done to reduce the potential impact and costs of stress at work. Implications of these findings for workers, employers, insurers and health practitioners are also discussed.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.