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Is stress a legitimate excuse for a sick day?

Even though one in four people suffer from mental illness, many employers still do not think it is a valid reason to stay off work.

As reported by, a survey by AXA PPP showed that two-thirds of employers don’t see stress, anxiety or depression as serious enough for workers to take the day off.

Only 17% of employees think mental illness is a legitimate excuse for a sick day, according to another study by Benenden, whilst only 39% of people would be honest about their reasons for calling in sick if they were doing so for mental health reasons.


Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is particularly prevalent at this time of year. AXA PPP’s director of psychological services, Dr Mark Winwood, says, “Many people don’t consider SAD to be a real form of depression due to its seasonal nature. SAD presents most commonly in women and occurs from October through to January.”

The following are physical and psychological symptoms that stressed individuals may be experiencing:

Physical Symptoms

  • Moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • Change in appetite or weight 
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Lack of energy or lack of interest in sex 
  • Changes to your menstrual cycle
  • Disturbed sleep 

Psychological Symptoms

  • Continuous low mood or sadness
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Feeling irritable and intolerant of other people
  • Finding it difficult to make decisions
  • Having no motivation or interest in things
  • Feeling anxious or worried