The rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety has shown signs of increasing in recent years and accounted for the loss of 12.8 million working days in 2018/19, an average of 21.2 days lost per case.

The Health and Safety Executive (SE) has analysed findings from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and revealed that, in the period under review, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health.

Work-related stress is defined as a harmful reaction that people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.

Healthcare workers, teaching professionals and public service professionals show higher levels of stress compared to all jobs, with stress, depression or anxiety more prevalent in public service industries.

The average prevalence of work-related stress, depression or anxiety across all industries was 1380 cases per 100,000 workers averaged over the period 2016/17–2018/19.

Respondents gave reasons for work-related stress, depression or anxiety including: workload pressures (44%) such as tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support; violence threats or bullying (13%); and general changes at work (8%).

According to the HSE, females had statistically significantly higher rates of work-related stress depression and anxiety compared with the average for all persons. This is evident in the ages ranges 25 to 54 years.

Compared with the rate across all workplaces sizes, small workplaces had a statistically significantly lower rate of work-related stress, depression or anxiety while large workplaces had statistically significantly higher rates.

The HSE analysis can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf.

Comment from CEO and wellbeing expert at Health Assured, David Price

Embracing ways to reduce work-related stress should be a key part of employers’ business practices if they want to prevent sickness absence and maintain a productive working environment.

Although Employee Assistance Programmes can offer valuable support, with round the clock counselling and helpful tips on improving personal wellbeing, this may not necessarily be an option for smaller employers with limited budgets.

Instead, smaller employers could look to train a designated member of staff to be a mental health first aider.

They can also ensure workloads remain manageable and that staff are allowed sufficient time to rest and recuperate during the working week for their benefit.

Last reviewed 2 December 2019