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Oz nurses more stressed

A new study finds Australian nurses report greater job strain than their New Zealand counterparts, writes Fiona Cassie.

Australian nurses are more likely to report high job strain than their New Zealand counterparts, the early data from a major longitudinal study has found.

The initial work/life balance and health findings from the Nurses and Midwives e-cohort Study (NMeS) following 6308 Australian and 1325 New Zealand nurses and midwives, were published recently in the International Nursing Review.

Greater job strain was reported by Australian participants (28.2 per cent) than their New Zealand counterparts (18.8 per cent) according to the article by lead author Philip Schluter of AUT University and four colleagues, including the study’s principal New Zealand investigator, Massey University’s Annette Huntington.

Nurses and midwives also reported generally low support from co-workers and supervisors (71.0 and 65.0 per cent for Australian and New Zealand participants respectively) and many thought the effort put into their jobs outweighed the rewards (30.0 and 27.8 per cent respectively).
On top of their professional duties, more than 40 per cent of the participants looked after children or others outside of their paid work.

The e-cohort participants were also questioned on their health status and found that New Zealand nurses were less likely (30 per cent) than their Australian counterparts (24 per cent) to have had a medical exam within the previous two years. But the Kiwi nurses were slightly less likely to be smokers (11.6 compared to 14.6 per cent).

More than a third of participants reported their usual sleeping hours were less than seven hours a night. About one in 10 had a moderate or high risk of long-term alcohol risk intake and depressive symptoms were reported by about 22 per cent. More than half of participants reported having a high physical activity level.

Only 11.6 per cent of participants had never experienced neck, upper back or lower back troubles, but 26.3 per cent had experienced troubles in all three areas. Overall, 77.2 per cent of Australian and 73.5 per cent of New Zealand participants had a lifetime prevalence of low back pain with statistically 60 to 80 per cent of all adults expected to have low back pain at some time in their lives.

The article concluded that the study’s cohort was large and generally reflected their country’s demographic and workplaces characteristics. It said themes for further investigation during the longitudinal, ‘life-course’ study included determinants and effects of occupational stress and job strain, back pain and depression.

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