High levels of stress at work are faced by approximately five million employees, concludes two independent reports published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The first study, carried out by the University of Bristol, surveyed 8,000 people over a three-year period on stress at work.

It found that one in five workers felt either very or extremely stressed by their work.

An association existed between being very stressed and job design such as having too much work or not being supported by managers, as well as health related behaviours such as poor mental health, back pain, drinking alcohol and smoking.

The second study was undertaken by University College London and researched the health of civil servants and focused on how the design of work affected people's mental well being and health.

Results suggested that men who did not have much say in how their work is done were at a higher risk for mental illness, while women were at a higher risk for alcoholism.

However, men were at a higher risk of alcoholism if their work efforts were not recognised by their managers, while women were at a higher risk of poor physical fitness or illness.

Employees who undertook fast paced work, who needed to resolve conflicting priorities, and did not get support from their managers were at higher risk of having a psychiatric disorder.

Poor work design was associated with employees taking a high number of sick days.