stressed employeeMore than two fifths (44%) of adults in Britain are experiencing a period of stress and of those 27% say they regularly feel close to breaking point, a survey has found.

The study of 10,000 people by healthcare provider Bupa also found that the main causes of stress were money worries (20%) followed by day-to-day working (18%), family life (8%) and living with a long-term illness (7%). 

For many, stress is also a long-term issue; of those who admitted to feeling stressed, 28% said they had felt that way for more than a year. It was found to be most prevalent amongst 45-54-year-olds with half (50%) saying they’re stressed, and least prevalent among the 55 and overs – only 38% stated they were.  

The way people manage stress differs between men and women. Men who are stressed are more likely to increase their alcohol consumption to control their stress – 30% versus 22%. But women are more inclined to have tried breathing and relaxation exercises – 29% – compared with 20% of men. 

Worryingly, the research also revealed that of those feeling stressed, two-thirds (61%) would only seek help when they were unable to cope with daily life – a dangerously high trigger point.

Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This research shows stress is extremely common in this country. While low-level and irregular bouts of stress can be beneficial and manageable, it’s concerning to see that so many people are experiencing sustained and relentless stress.  

“If left unchecked for a prolonged period of time, stress can cause much more serious, long-term mental and physical illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and be a contributing factor in health problems such as heart disease and even obesity.

“There is a growing problem of long-term stress in this country, which needs to be addressed. It’s important that people realise that stress is not just something that you have to ‘put up with’. If you recognise that you are under unusual pressure, try self-help techniques – for example deep breathing, taking exercise and avoiding unhealthy behaviours – these can all make a real difference and help you to feel back in control.

“If self-help isn’t having an effect, or if you’re concerned about your stress levels or feeling very anxious, you should always talk to your GP or a healthcare professional.”