The International Stress Management AssociationUK

Facts About Stress


Stress is...

“The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.”

Health & Safety Executive

“Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way we respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to our overall wellbeing.”

World Health Organisation

Excessive pressures may come from a number of different sources, and when their combined effect is overwhelming, stress occurs. This means that stress is not good for you. Stress is an unhealthy state of body or mind or both.

For many years, people have referred to the Flight or Fight response as the stress response. But Flight or Fight is a one-off reaction to a perceived challenge or pressure and, as such, is a safety response, ensuring the individual is alerted to possible threats, allowing them to take avoiding action.

However, continually being in this state means that the body chemicals associated with Flight or Fight are constantly being stimulated, which may create symptoms of, or cause, ill health.

Work-related stress, depression or anxiety

Figure 1: Estimated prevalence rates of self-reported stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work in Great Britain, for people working in the last 12 months

Figure 2: Estimated working days lost per worker due to self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain, for people working in the last 12 months


Diagrams reproduced by kind permission of the Health & Safety Executive; sources:Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2022 ( Health and safety at work summary statistics 2022 (

Work-related stress, depression or anxiety is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.
  • The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), quoted in the HSE’s reports on Health & Safety at Work Summary Statistics 2022 and on Work-related Stress, Anxiety or Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2022 show that the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22 was 914,000 (of which 372,000 were new cases), a prevalence rate of 2,730 per 100,000 workers, and 51% of all cases of work-related ill health. The rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety was higher than the levels pre-Covid.
  • The HSE’s Health & Safety at Work Summary Statistics 2022 records (in the Work-related ill health graph, page 3) that a total of 1.8m workers suffered with work-related ill health, including stress, depression or anxiety, during 2021/22. The number of new cases of work-related ill health was 722,000, equating to an incidence rate of 2,310 per 100,000 workers. The HSE report on Health & Safety at Work 2022 also states (in the Work-related ill health graph, page 3) that the total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2021/22 was 30.8 million days. This equates to an average of 17 days lost per case.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; public administration; and defence. By occupation, professional occupations that are common across public service industries (such as healthcare workers, teaching professionals, 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 were workload pressures, including tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.

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