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Work, money worries and lack of sleep among the biggest causes of stress for British adults

A new study, commissioned by HR software provider CIPHR, reveals that most British adults (79%) feel stressed at least once a month, with work, money worries and lack of sleep among the biggest stressors.

While one in five (21%) of the 2,000 UK adults surveyed describe themselves as stress-free, for many people stress has a more constant, and potentially debilitating, role in their lives. Nearly half (49%) report being affected by stress for five days or more a month, and nearly a third (30%) say it’s ten days or more (the average is around eight days).

When asked to identify the main causes of their stress, 84% of the respondents, who say they feel stressed at least once a month, blame their work in some way. Around a quarter (23%) of people put their stress down to work in general. For one in five (18%) it’s their workload that gets them down, one in seven (14%) say it’s long working hours, and one in ten people struggle with their colleagues (11%) or bosses (10%).

Commuting, once the bane of many a worker’s daily routine, appears much lower on the list (at 8%) than would previously have been expected. This is probably due to less people having to travel to their office or workplace over the pandemic, and many employers continuing to allow their staff to work from home for foreseeable future (a separate CIPHR survey shows that two-thirds of employers have given all or most of their staff the option to work remotely).

Other major stress triggers include lack of sleep / sleep disorders (39%) and financial anxieties (39%), followed by health (35%), family (31%), and weight worries (28%).

Commenting on the findings, Claire Williams, director of people and services at CIPHR, said: “There has been a lot of focus in recent years on workplace stress and what employers can do to safeguard their employees’ mental health. Then came the pandemic, and 18 months on it’s very likely that people are feeling much more stressed than they’ve ever been.

“CIPHR’s new study illustrates just how much of an influence work has on stress levels. Issues like unrealistic workloads and time pressures, overbearing bosses or toxic co-workers, can trigger severe stress – interfering with people’s focus and energy, and having a negative impact on productivity, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and, ultimately, personal health and wellbeing.

“Of course, there are many things outside of an employer’s control that can still take a toll on the workforce. Financial concerns and health fears are always going to crop up in everyday life, but things have been even more uncertain and highly changeable since Covid. Whether people work remotely or are workplace-based, everyone is likely to have been affected in different ways.

“These are incredibly challenging times and it’s really important that employers look out for the warning signs that individuals are struggling and actively talk to staff about ways to mitigate some of the impact that these work stressors and home stressors may have. Ideally, before it becomes an insurmountable problem for the person themselves and the organisation they work for.”

The research also shows that:

  • Women experience stress more frequently than men (averaging ten stressful days each month, compared to seven days for men)
  • Younger people (18 to 24-year-olds) typically feel stressed for more days per month than any other age group (9.8 days a month, compared to the over-55s at 6.3 days).
  • More than one in ten (11%) 45 to 54-year-olds admit to feeling stressed out every single day

The findings form part of CIPHR’s Workplace Stress Statistics in the UK report, examining the incidence and causes of stress (in and outside of work) over the past year.