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Defining Stress

“Stress manifests itself as a physical, psychological or social dysfunction resulting in individuals feeling unable to bridge the gap with the requirements or expectations placed upon them.”

PAS 1010

"The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work."

HSE

Pressures may have many different causes.  When their combined effect is overwhelming, stress occurs. Stress is not good for you, indicating an unhealthy state of body or an unhealthy stage of mind, or both. 

For many years, people have referred to the 'flight or fight' as a stress response. But flight or fight is a one-off reaction to a perceived challenge or pressure.  As such, it is a safety mechanism, ensuring the individual is alerted to possible threats and allowing them to take evasive action.

However, continually being in this state means that the body chemicals associated with fight or flight  are constantly being stimulated. The result  is imbalance, creating ill health of one type or another. This is stress.

Most official statistics are at least one year old and statistics from other sources vary widely.

Some Official Statistics

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show:

  • The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2015/16 was 488,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1510 per 100,000 workers.
  • The number of new cases was 224,000, an incidence rate of 690 per 100,000 workers. The estimated number and rate have remained broadly flat for more than a decade.
  • The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 11.7 million days. This equated to an average of 23.9 days lost per case. Working days lost per worker showed a generally downward trend up to around 2009/10; since then the rate has been broadly flat.
  • In 2015/16, stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.
  • Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.
  • By occupation, jobs that are common across public service industries (such as healthcare workers; teaching professionals; business, media and public service professionals) show higher levels of stress as compared to all jobs.
  • The main work factors cited by respondents as causing work related stress, depression or anxiety (LFS) were workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support

Estimated rates for prevalence (total cases) and incidence (new cases) of stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work, for people working in the last 12 months.

Figure 1: Rates for total cases and new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in GB

 

 

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About ISMA

The International Stress Management Association [ISMAUK] is a registered charity and the lead professional body for workplace and personal Stress Management, Well-being and Performance. We promote sound knowledge and best practice, nationally and internationally.

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