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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: May 27, 2011 NO. 22 JUNE 2, 2011
Stressful Presence
Overwork threatens the health of office workers in China


On May 23, Liu Jian, a 28-year-old reporter at Henan Province's Zhengzhou TV Station passed away at home with myocardial infarction.

One week before death, Liu wrote on his micro-blog, "I am in a very bad condition of sub-health."

Sub-health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state between health and disease when all necessary physical and chemical indexes are tested negative by medical equipment, things seem normal but the person experiences all kinds of discomfiture and even pain.

"We don't know exactly the causes of his sudden death, but the high pressure from work must be on top of the possibly long list," said one of Liu's workmates who declined to be named.

On May 22, just one day before Liu's death, Shenzhen Evening News announced on its official website that Huang Lei, a 31-year-old journalist working for a newspaper in south China's Guangdong Province died of suddenly deteriorating cancer.

On May 18, a 36-year-old editor working at national broadcaster CCTV, Ma Yuntao, died of stomach cancer.

"Almost every media worker has sub-health symptoms since we are always on the way to news stories and it is hard to have meals at a fixed time and we have to spend quite a lot of time in front of computers every day as well, writing stories and editing videos," said Li Ruijun, who also works at CCTV.

"It is said that the average life length for media workers is 52 years, how come the tragically lost characters in these sad news are all much younger than that age?" said Yang Jinlin, an anchor at Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.

Exhausted life

Actually, media is not even one of the top three high-pressure industries in China, according to a survey conducted by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association and the Chinese Hospital Association in April 2011. It showed, among all the 30 industries covered by the survey, the top five industries that were the least healthy are manufacturing, finance, education, media and law industries. The survey also found more than 60 percent of office workers faced the risk of contracting maladies resulting from overwork, a lack of exercise and a poor diet. High cholesterol, neck and lower-back pain and liver diseases were reportedly the most common symptoms.

Another survey conducted by the job-search website Zhaopin.com in March 2011 had similar findings. The survey, which polled 5,000 office workers in big cities including Beijing and Shanghai, concluded more than 70 percent of office workers worked under a stress they found hard to bear.

According to the survey, 44.8 percent of the survey respondents said they were often physically uncomfortable at their jobs, 40 percent said they easily lost their tempers at the office and 36.5 percent said their work left them feeling depressed. People who said they spent between 500 yuan ($77) to 1,000 yuan ($154) in 2010 on health examinations, medicine and health products accounted for 35.8 percent of the respondents, a number that rose by 14.2 percent above where it had been two years ago.

"Several years ago, working as a white-collar was supposed to be very decent in China as they get good pay and work in modern office buildings, but now it is such a tiring job and I don't want to work in such a stressful environment," said Mu Xiaoqing, a senior college student in Beijing Normal University.

Mu made the remarks after learning the sudden death of Pan Ting, a 25-year-old junior auditor with the Shanghai Office of Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) on April 10.

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