Stress hits hard on Wall Street
The New York Stock Exchange is a stressful place for the traders who are dealing with an unsteady market. (AP)
By Rebecca Wolfson
Special to amNewYork
Riding the market is a heart-pounding experience these days, and all the stress that comes with it is a threat to the health of workers on Wall Street, doctors warn.
Dr. Johnny Lee, a cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association, said his patients, half of whom work in the financial sector, have taken up harmful eating, drinking and smoking habits during the last few months.
I spend most of my visits now reinforcing lifestyle issues: How are you doing with the financial crisis? Have you stopped exercising? Lee said.The bad habits can trigger heart disease and increased blood pressure.
The stock market has been bouncing from free fall to dramatic climbs, turning any which way in an instant without warning.
Volatility in the past several months has exploded, said Jeff Tjornehoj, a research manager at Lipper. Over the past, say, 20 years there really isnt a precedent for the level of volatility we have now.
The highs and lows that stockbrokers experience on a daily basis lead to greater amounts of stress than other jobs, said Dr. Alden Cass, a pyschologist who recently co-authored Bullish Thinking, which advises financial professionals on how to remain emotionally stable during difficult economic times.
The Centers for Disease Control ranked stockbroker sixth in its report of most stressful jobs. Cass has studied stress and depression in stockbrokers and now treats about 30 people in the financial sector.
Dealing with sudden and abrupt market changes on a secondto-second basis, things can go up really quick or down really quick, within seconds.
In the past few months Cass has made many referrals for patients to see doctors.
Emotional exhaustion, increase in substance abuse, problems in marriages, these are all things that seem to be a bit more pronounced right now, Cass said. I see a lot more physical ailments.
Ive lost 15 pounds in the last four months and Im not dieting, said one stock broker from a major Wall Street firm. As clients accounts dissipate, stock brokers take it personally, he said.
Clients are really scared, said the broker who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Theres been a flight to safety.
Sunday nights he used to relax, but the downturn has prompted him to start watching the business channel so he can anticipate Monday morning.
Its tough to get out of bed in the morning, he said.