Whether it’s workload, time pressures, issues with pay, holiday allowances or workplace dynamics, our jobs can be the cause of much stress in our lives. Even for those of us who enjoy our careers and get along with our bosses – or are our own bosses – work life can be stressful, and it can be difficult to switch off and leave it all behind at the end of the working day.
That’s why we wanted to know, how many people in the UK experience stress on a regular basis? And just how much of an impact do our jobs or bosses have to do with it?
We conducted a series of surveys and investigations around the topic of stress. Our research found that:
What are some of our biggest stressors?
In July 2021, we conducted a survey, using Censuswide, asking 2,000 UK adults: ‘On average, how many days do you feel stressed each month?’
The survey found that:
Our survey also found that:
The graph below shows just how frequently people in the UK feel stressed in a typical month.
We experience stress at various different stages in our lives, whether that’s the stress of finding a job after finishing school or university, the stress of becoming a parent or even the stress of making the decision to retire. But which age group in the UK feels stressed most often in 2021?
Percentage who feel stressed at least once a month:
Does living in a busy city or bustling town mean you’re more likely to be stressed? And is the countryside really all it’s made out to be in terms of peacefulness and tranquillity? To find out, we took a closer look at where each of our 2,000 survey respondents were from, to determine which parts of the UK are actually the most stressed in 2021.
Our survey found:?
Percentage of adults who feel stressed at least once a month:
To find out a little more about why such a huge proportion of UK adults feel stressed, we asked the 1,590 respondents, who said they feel stressed at least once a month, what types of things cause them to feel stressed. We provided them with the following list of options to choose from as well as the option of ‘none of the above’ and asked them to tick all that apply.
Percentage of UK adults who say this causes them stress:
As you can see from the table:
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|Percentage of people who feel stressed due to lack of sleep|
|East of England||41%|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||32%|
The top five cities for sleep deprivation are Cardiff (50%), Liverpool (50%), Nottingham (48%), Bristol (45%) and Norwich (44%).
|Percentage of people who feel stressed about money|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||41%|
|East of England||33%|
The top five cities for financial worries are Cardiff (54%), Sheffield (46%), Glasgow (45%), Liverpool (44%) and Brighton (42%).
|Percentage of people who feel stressed about their health|
|East of England||36%|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||34%|
The top five cities where people are most likely to feel stressed about their health are: Belfast (49%), Liverpool (46%), Cardiff (45%), Glasgow (42%) and Plymouth (41%).
Financial worries are the joint-biggest source of stress for UK adults. In many cases, this can be because of pay issues at work. But what other work-related issues tend to cause stress for people in 2021?
The table below shows the biggest sources of work-related stress for UK adults in 2021, based on 1,590 survey responses.
|Causes of work-related stress (by age)||18 – 24||25 – 34||35 – 44||45 – 54||55+|
|Work in general||25%||24%||30%||29%||15%|
|My working hours||20%||20%||19%||11%||6%|
|None of the above||4%||6%||6%||5%||11%|
No matter what it’s caused by, stress can have a significant impact on a whole host of different aspects in your life. But just how many people take time off work due to stress*?
To find out, we analysed NHS Digital data showing which conditions GPs provided Fit Notes for between 2017 and 2020 in England. Fit Notes are official statements from doctors that determine whether or not a person is fit to work.
Fit Notes issued for mental and behavioural disorders in England from 2017-2020 (NHS Digital)
As you can see from the graph:
*It’s important to note that not all Fit Notes issued for mental health conditions and behavioural disorders are down to stress. Various other conditions fall under this category.
Symptoms of stress can be really worrisome, such as weight loss, hair loss, low energy and insomnia. Given that one in 14 adults in the UK feel stressed every day, we wanted to find out how many experience symptoms of stress, or more specifically search for common stress symptoms. To do this, we conducted an analysis of online searches using the tool Keyword Finder.
Our study found that:
|Town / City||Searches per 1,000 people in last 12 months (July 2020 – June 2021)|
Cities conducting the highest volumes of searches per month for ‘stress symptoms’
To calculate the prevalence of searches per 1,000 people, we extracted the yearly search volumes for stress symptoms in all 119 of the UK’s major towns and cities (based on the Office for National Statistics’ Major Towns and Cities list). We then divided the number of yearly searches in each town and city by its population, before multiplying by 1,000 to give us the average number of searches per 1,000 people in the population.
It’s important to note that each search does not necessarily correspond to, or represent, a different individual, as one person may search for the same term multiple times.
How many people are affected by work-related stress?
The International Classification of Diseases describes burnout as:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
“Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Using the same methods as above – but to calculate the proportion per 10,000 people instead of per 1,000 – we wanted to find out how many people were searching for the term ‘burnout’ online in each major town and city in the UK.
Our analysis found that:
Here’s the top five:
|Town / City||Searches per 10,000 people in last 12 months|
Notably, both of the top two cities in terms of burnout searches are known for their high-performance universities, and with academic burnout increasingly prevalent, could it be possible this is one of the reasons behind a relatively high volume of searches in these cities?
Unquestionably, stress is a serious concern and this has a huge impact on staff, employers and HR teams.
Workplace stress can result in demoralised workforces, low morale, more absence and higher staff turnover. And while HR teams can’t resolve all of the causes of stress in employees’ lives, there’s certainly an argument for being more aware of the impact of work on the stress levels of staff.
Many HR teams across the country have increased the number of workplace initiatives that support staff in both physical and mental wellbeing. Over the last year, there’s been a huge increase in stress workshops, flexible working opportunities and the implementation of diversity initiatives. But there’s always more to be done, particularly with new insights such as these, providing HR teams with information on the types of issues that contribute to stress.
A few practical ideas that may come in useful, based on our survey findings, are:
CIPHR has created a list of free resources for people looking for information and advice on supporting health and wellbeing at work, which is available at www.ciphr.com/health-wellbeing-resource-guide.