Work-related stress among employees in Ireland doubled between 2010 and 2015, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute, funded by the Health and Safety Authority. 

Its findings suggest that 17% of the workforce experienced stress in 2015, up from 8% in 2010 - one of the steepest increases among the ten western European countries surveyed. 

However the Irish figure was still below the 19% average.

Employees were deemed to be experiencing job stress if they reported experiencing stress "always" or "most of the time", along with reactions to stress such as general fatigue, anxiety and sleep disturbance.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Irish workers experiencing one or more stress reaction soared from 21% to 38%.

Workers most likely to report stress were in the health sector (18%), public administration (16%), and manufacturing (15%) - while retail and construction showed the lowest levels of stress.  

20% of technical/associate professionals report stress, 16% of professionals, and 14% of managers. 

Stress was most likely to be triggered in Irish employees by emotional demands - including dealing with angry customers or clients, or being forced to hide their feelings.

Workers dealing with such emotional demands were 21 times more likely to experience job stress than those without such pressures.  

Those under time pressure were 10 times more likely to experience job stress than those without tight deadlines.

Employees exposed to bullying, harassment and violence were eight times more likely to be stressed than those in jobs with no such exposure. 

Extended working hours can also trigger stress - with those working over 40 hours-a-week twice as likely to experience job stress than those working 36-40 hours. The legal limit is 48 hours per week. 

Those who felt they were underpaid for what they do were four times more likely to be stressed - while those engaged in physically demanding work were twice as likely to suffer from stress. 

Workers in Ireland were also more likely to report bullying, harassment and other forms of mistreatment - but were less likely to come under time pressure.

The survey was based on data in the European Working Conditions Survey carried out in 2010 and 2015. 

On the plus side, Irish employees reported relatively high levels of support from managers and co-workers.

The ESRI says the report carried out in conjunction with the HSA highlights the importance of Irish firms having policies in place to deal with workplace stress among employees. 

It cites the health implications of stress, which can include cardio-vascular disease, depression, as well as consequences including absenteeism, increased job turnover and reduced morale. 

However, only 40% of employers have policies in place to address workplace stress.

The ESRI says that action is urgently needed to address psycho-social risks such as bullying, harassment and violence, as well as high levels of emotional demands and time pressure.

Author Helen Russell urged employers to manage the risks to prevent the significant individual and organisational costs of stress-related illness.  

HSA CEO Sharon McGuinness said the research would help clarify how stress becomes an organisational issue - and pointed to HSA online tools to assist employers.