Auto stress

Auto stress

Two University of Windsor researchers are finding out just how stressful it is for those working in the auto sector
May 27, 2009

(Article courtesy of the University of Windsor.)

When Chrysler reported in March it would cancel the third shift at its Windsor minivan plant and lay off 1,200 workers, it was just the latest in a string of bad news announcements that have pummelled the city and piled on to its double-digit unemployment rates.

Windsor is ground-zero for the devastation undermining Ontario’s manufacturing industry and autoworkers have been looking over their shoulders for the past few years, constantly in fear of what the future will hold.

Now a pair of University of Windsor psychology researchers wants to know more about the psychological and physiological effects of all that stress and uncertainty and examine how people cope. Greg Chung-Yan and Fuschia Sirois are asking assembly workers employed by the Big Three automakers to participate in an online survey measuring how stress affects their health and well-being.

The pair is hoping about 300 people will complete the survey. Once finished, they will invite volunteers to the university to learn more about the physiological effects of job uncertainty.

Sirois runs the university's Health and Well-Being lab and says elevated stress levels can lead to a variety of health problems, including sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease and depression. She also says it contributes to a general inability to function on a day-to-day basis because people who are suffering from chronic stress often put off health-promoting behaviours such as exercise and healthy eating that might help protect them from many of those problems in the first place.

“It perpetuates a really negative cycle,” she says. “You see a lot of burnout. People begin withdrawing from work and disengaging with their co-workers, they lose interest in their hobbies.”

Although the researchers hope to get a sense of the types of problems autoworkers face, they also want to understand coping strategies used by long-time employees to deal with stress associated with the cyclical nature of the auto industry.

“Some of these people might be coping really well and it will be useful to know what sort of mental strategies they employ so they can continue functioning normally,” says Sirois. “Learning more about these strategies may help us help others who aren’t coping so well.”