Financial stress results in debilitating physical conditions that can affect job performance, says a study released Thursday by Lockton Retirement Services, a workplace benefits provider based in Kansas City, Mo.

Ninety percent of employees feel at least moderate stress because of financial issues. Included in that number are 20 percent of workers who say they are extremely stressed. Only 10 percent are stress free, according to the study, "Finding the Links Between Retirement, Stress and Health," which included 613 employees.

“When employees are stressed financially, their overall health and productivity both suffer,” says the study. Those reporting high levels of stress were more than four times as likely to suffer from symptoms of fatigue, headache, depression or other ailments. They were also twice as likely to report poor health overall, leading to more sick days, increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.

“In our work with clients and their employees, we knew financial stress was impacting health and productivity, but we didn¹t realize how much,” says Donn Hess, senior vice president at Lockton Retirement Services. “This study highlights very real problems facing employers and their employees, but it also provides solutions.”

The study says employees who are stressed are often absent or disengaged from their work. They are twice as likely to use sick time when they are not ill and more likely to report being nonproductive. Half of all respondents reported using work time to review financial statements or pay bills. Those with lower levels of savings feel especially distracted, with 10 percent of people with less than $100,000 in assets saying their work productivity suffers a great deal due to financial stress.

Having access to employer-sponsored retirement plans lowers stress levels. Almost all respondents say it lowers stress somewhat and half say it eased their concerns a great deal. However, Lockton says retirement plan participants may be underestimating what they need to retire or they have not decided what that number is.

More than half of the respondents are contributing 6 percent or less of their salaries to their retirement plans. They say they are saving what they can or just enough to get the company match. Only 6 percent set their savings rate is based on what they need to achieve their goals.