Helsinki (12.01.1998 - Juhani Artto) Almost a third of Finnish working people believe that their work causes them physical or mental damage. The conclusion comes from a new study on how Finns assess their own working conditions.

In the study, made by the Institute of Occupational Health, 3,200 Finnish speaking people aged from 25 to 64 years responded to a thorough questionnaire. Those interviewed were selected at random from the population register.

A majority experience haste at work rather or very often. In a similar study dating from 1994/95 the proportion of such respondents was 58 per cent. In 1997 this figure was a little lower at 52 per cent. Those who feel mildly or badly stressed at work represent 14 per cent, which is 3 per cent fewer than three years earlier. Women are slightly more stressed than men.

More women (42 per cent) than men (38 per cent) regard their workload as mentally very heavy or rather heavy. One fifth suffer from continuous low morale and a further fifth from insomnia.

A small minority stated that they have very little or no influence at all on matters affecting them at work.

There were also questions about physical working conditions. A third suffer from noise and a minority of seven per cent regard this problem as very bad. Roughly the same proportion feel that dust is a problem at their workplaces. Solvents are an inconvenience for one in ten people in working life. Six per cent complain of cigarette smoke. Almost half suffer from draughty, overheated or cold conditions at work. 12 per cent consider these problems to be serious.

Finnish working life and commuting between home and work are not free of violence. Over a 12 month period 1.4 per cent of the respondents had been violently attacked, held tightly or pushed and a further 2.7 per cent had been threatened with violence. There was no significant gender difference on average but young women were most likely to be threatened. The worst sectors are those of hotel, catering, health and social services.

Almost 4 per cent complain of being continuosly bullied, discriminated against and treated in an insulting manner. The problem is greatest among 45-64 year-old women. As much as 4 per cent of younger women experience sexual harassment. In

other female age groups the rate is 0.8 per cent. Among younger men 0.4 per cent suffer the same fate. The problem does not affect men over 34 years of age.

Two per cent assess the risk of accident at the workplace as very high, a further 12 per cent consider it to be rather high and one quarter regard it as moderate.

Fewer than ten per cent regard interpersonal relations at work as problematic or bad. Nevertheless, 22 per cent feel that the atmosphere is tense. The middle-aged were more critical than elderly and younger workers. A third consider the atmosphere to be prejudical and bogged down in old ways.

Nearly 13 per cent of women and 5 per cent of men say that there is gender discrimination at their workplace. Age discrimination is felt by 6 per cent of the respondents. This opinion is evenly distributed across various age groups.

A quarter do not believe that they will remain healthy enough to continue in their present work until retirement.

In spite of many problems and inconveniences, six out of seven respondents are rather or very satisfied with their present jobs. Only 0.6 per cent are very dissatisfied and a further 3.3 per cent rather dissatisfied with their jobs.