New data from the Mental Health Foundation indicates that people are becoming more stressed each year, and young people in particular are becoming frequent sufferers.
It is estimated that 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020. Worries about health, family and the future have been major stresses but work and financial security has had the largest impact.
The figures have been released as the UK marks Stress Awareness Month, organised by the Stress Management Society. The theme this year is ‘Regaining Connectivity, Certainty and Control’.
Work-related stress is the most common type of stress among UK adults.
It is typically suffered among older people, in the 34-54 age range. But recent data shows that younger people are becoming increasingly affected by the stress of work, or job hunting.
About 60% of young people (aged 18 to 24) have felt so stressed by pressure to succeed that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Lucy, 23, is a Masters student who has struggled with chronic stress and anxiety.
She said: “University has been a massive trigger. It feels all consuming and there’s never enough time to do everything. There’s a pressure to be productive all of the time and that’s a huge stressor.”
Lucy believes that a lot of the stress for university students comes from anxieties about the job market they are graduating into.
“The thought of graduating and being the only one of my peers without a job makes me feel physically sick. I’m scared that if I don’t land on my feet straight away people will think I’m a failure.
“Social media definitely adds to the stress because you see people your age getting graduate jobs and it makes you feel awful and unprepared.”
Lucy worries about her stress levels when she does work full-time, as she believes that workplace stress is so common it will become an inevitable part of her future.
Ash*, 20, does not have to worry about job searching as a graduate, as they are already employed. But they are no stranger to work-related anxieties.
“I feel burned out because I’m forced to overwork to keep my position. You don’t have time to socialise, you can’t disconnect, you don’t pursue your hobbies and life starts revolving completely around work.”
Ash is unhappy with their workload but is worried about complaining or leaving their job and not being able to find another.
“Finding a job in this economy is a nightmare, even experienced people struggle. Seeing how other people are struggling to put food on the table, I think we’re inclined to take up whatever job comes our way.
“We learn to be okay with stress because we know it’s better than having no work at all, and we’re easily replaced because there is so much demand.”
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to raise awareness and share solutions to the modern causes of stress-related illness.
After 12 months of lockdowns and job losses, this year more and more people are feeling the effect of stress on their mental health.
Data in January this year showed that there were 1.7 million people unemployed, the highest rate in five years. Of those made redundant since March 2020, two out of three were young people.
David, 29, has worked in Liverpool in the media industry since he was 21. He is about to be made redundant for the second time in less than two years.
“I’m about to lose my job and I feel extremely stressed about trying to find a new one. I had at least 20 interviews last year and I was rejected by them all. I’m only in my current role until next month and then I have nothing.”
Having been in the same industry for eight years, David believed his career was on an upward trajectory without any bumps until 2019.
“This is the hardest period of my life. I was made redundant in 2019 just before the pandemic hit. It’s demoralising to keep receiving knockbacks and I’m worried I won’t find a new job.”
For David, the biggest stress comes from financial concern, a common cause of work-related stress.
“I have a responsibility to keep my lights on for myself and I don’t want to pass on any financial burden to my partner. I feel like I’m getting nowhere.”
Methods for coping with work-related stress vary depending on the extent of the problem.
Rebecca Jane is head of PH7 HEALTH, a private healthcare company specifically for mental health, which currently looks after 10,000 corporate people.
“We all have drivers in our personality, in times of stress these are what take over! To lead a less stressful life, we all should know who we are, what drives us and how we react in a time of stress.”
Rebecca believes that acknowledging and accepting stress is healthy, as we will all encounter stress at points in our life, and that learning management techniques is key.
“Analyse what you do in a time of stress, think of previous occasions and how you have reacted. Review it, think about what have or haven’t helped about your reactions, accept it and try to change what is in your control going forward.”
But sometimes work-related stress feels outside of individual control.
Charity Mind UK recommend speaking with a manager and seeking out services available to help within the workplace.
If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, caused by stress, you can always contact your GP for mental health advice.
If you need immediate mental health support then always call 999 or ring the Samaritans hotline at 116 123.