Occupational stress and ill health of correctional service workers
Manaba, Nokuthula Pauline
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Occupational stress is considered to be a rising concern in many organisations in South Africa; it is, moreover, a pervasive problem in our communities in general. The consequences of high-stress environments are typically a, reduction in the quality and quantity of job performance, high levels of absenteeism, an increase in turnover, an increased number of grievances and increased frequency of accidents. Correctional Services has been reported to be the most challenging and frustrating component of the criminal justice system. Factors such as having a high level of responsibility, genuine threats to personal safety, rotating shifts, meager salaries and unpleasant surroundings, all add to the stress of Correctional Service Officials. The results of uncontrolled stress are costly to both the individual and the organisation. It is thus important for both the organisation and employees to learn or acquire ways of coping with stress. The empirical objective of this study was to investigate relationships between occupational stress and i l l health among employees of Correctional Services in the Vereeniging Management Area, in order to contribute towards an understanding of the interaction between these variables, and the implication thereof for the management of occupational stress and i l l health in the specific setting. A cross-sectional design was used to collect data and to attain the research objectives. The study population included the entire population consisting of (n= 197) employees of Correctional Services in the Vereeniging Management area. Management and production levels were fully represented. The Correctional Official Stress Inventory, General Health Questionnaire, Maslach Burnout Inventory and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale were used as measuring instruments. The reliability and validity of all questionnaires were found to be acceptable. The findings revealed that increased levels of occupational stress lead to increased levels of exhaustion and this may in turn lead to increased experience of somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction and severe depression. Higher levels of exhaustion and cynicism were associated with higher levels of somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression. The findings again revealed that an increase in the frequency of stress might lead to an increase in the experience of exhaustion, somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction and severe depression. It was also found that stress could have some predictive value with regard to burnout, work engagement and health. It is recommended that more awareness need to be created about the symptoms and effects of occupational stress and burnout on individuals as well as organisations. This study was conducted in a small correctional institution, as a result the study population was too small, which made it difficult to generalise beyond the study population.