'Always On' Culture Causing A 'Stress Epidemic' Among Brits - Here's How To Switch Off

Because there's more to life than work emails.

Britain is in the grip of a “stress epidemic”, with 82% of us feeling stressed at least some of the time during a typical week, new research suggests.

Meanwhile, almost a tenth of us (8%) feel stressed all of the time.

The findings, from AXA, suggest stress is strongly linked to the ‘always on’ culture created by workplaces, with almost three in every five Brits (59%) admitting to taking calls outside of working hours.

The survey of 4,000 adults also found more than half (55%) of Brits check their work emails after they’ve gone home.

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The researchers discovered pressure at work, financial worries and concerns about health are the most common causes of stress.

Health concerns are dominated by worries about waistlines, with 68% worried about their own weight and 39% worried about the weight of their partners.

Concerns about salary prospects (72%) and worries about paying household bills (60%) are also major sources of stress for Brits.

The research suggests that there is a notable gender divide when it comes to stress. While women are most stressed about their personal finances (43%) and the health of their family and friends (41%), men are, by some distance, most stressed about work (41%), followed by their personal financial situation (32%).

In terms of regional differences, Cardiff emerges as the UK’s most stressed city, with 86% of residents suggesting they feel stressed at least some of the time during a typical week and 13% admitting to feeling constantly stressed, followed by Belfast and Sheffield (both 86% and 7% respectively).


To relieve their stress, the majority of Brits (51%) watch TV, while 42% listen to music and 39% read a book. A further 28% drink alcohol to help combat stress, while more than one in ten (11%) smoke. A third of Brits exercise to relieve stress.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP Healthcare, said: “These findings illustrate the worrying scale of the UK’s stress epidemic, occurring both in the workplace and at home, impacting people up and down the country.

“It is encouraging to see a third of people exercising as a way to combat their stress, which is obviously a much healthier way of unwinding than smoking or drinking. Physical activity is proven to have a positive impact on mental health, even if it is just a walk around the block instead of a trip to the gym.”

He added that he would urge anyone who is feeling unable to cope with stress to “speak to a specialist to ease the burden”.

Tips for beating ‘aways on’ stress:

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If the pressure to be constantly connected via technology is fuelling your stress, it may be time for a digital detox.

Martin Talks from Digital Detoxing, who teach workforces how to switch off more, previously told HuffPost UK the key to de-stressing is to only check your devices at set times during the day.

“Don’t leap to every beep, buzz or light of your devices,” he said.

“It takes as much as 20 minutes to properly refocus on what you were doing when you got distracted. You should be in control of your technology, not the other way round.”

He added that if your job relies on technology, you should consider taking up a hobby that’s not screen-based, such as swimming, yoga or pottery.

Better yet, go on a device-free adventure holiday.

“Leave your phones, laptops and tablets behind and go on an adventure for a day, a week or even a month, with fun activities from wildlife appreciation to painting, kite flying to canoeing,” he said.

“If you can make it a few days or so, choose a place with no Wifi - a lot of places in Scotland and Norfolk work nicely for this. Just let people know you will be offline while you are away.”

Buying an alarm clock and banning devices from the bedroom can be a great way to avoid the temptation of looking at phones or tablets throughout the night.

If stress is impacting your mental health, find support via your GP or one of the charities listed below.

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

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