Over 7 million Thais worked more than 50 hours per week and were at risk of severe stress that can affect their work quality and health if they do not learn how to manage the stress properly, a senior doctor warned on Thursday.

Nakhon Ratchasima Rajanagarindra Psychiatric Hospital director Dr Kitkawee Pono cited the National Statistics Office’s report in March that 37.7 million people were employed and about 70 per cent were working outside the agricultural sector.

As people in the working-age group were already prone to stress due to other responsibilities, he said the risk was high among over 7 million people who worked over 50 hours a week.

Although the body’s stress hormone cortisol can keep people alert to threats and solve problems, chronically high levels of cortisol could endanger health and induce high-blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, he warned.

Kitkawee said warning signs of chronic high stress were unexplained physical ailments, exhaustion, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia, flatulence and muscle pain. Stress created mental issues such as memory and concentration impairment, anxiety, boredom and sadness.

There were also behavioural issues such as nagging, becoming introverted, heavy smoking, drinking or drug use or becoming dependent on sleeping pills.

He urged people to manage stress properly by adopting positive thinking in stressful situations and “be mindful of the present time”.

Adults should seek solutions together within their family or among colleagues by exchanging ideas and experiences and boosting each other’s morale.

People should practise relaxation techniques such as deep breathing for 10 minutes, meditating, exercising, listening to music, or doing hobbies.

Professional counselling was available on the 24-hour Mental Health Department’s hotline 1323, he added.