AXA Stress Index 2018: Which industries are the UK’s most stressful?


Accounting and financial services employees and cleaning and domestic staff are the UK's most stressed workers, with 87% stressed at least some of the time during a typical week

Employees in the training and education sector are the least stressed, with 29% of workers never or rarely stressed

Balancing work and personal issues, salary and redundancy are among the main worries keeping the UK’s workforce awake at night

Accounting and financial services employees and staff in the cleaning and domestic services sector are the most stressed in the UK, research from AXA has revealed.

According to the findings, which are part of AXA’s 2018 Stress Index, 87% of workers in accounting and financial services and the cleaning sectors and domestic services are stressed at least some of the time during a typical week. In addition, 12% of cleaning and domestic workers and 7% of those in the accounting and financial services sector said they fell stressed all the time.

Employees in the training and education sector are the UK’s least stressed, with 29% of staff never or rarely stressed, while the figure for the manufacturing sector, the second least stressed UK industry, was 27%.

The study, which looks at stress inside and outside the workplace, also revealed the issues keeping staff of all sectors awake at night. Splitting time between work and home is a major concern, with employees worried about being contacted outside of working hours (65%) and their work life balance (64%). Meanwhile, just under half (47%) were concerned about their current salary prospects and more than a third (36%) admitted to feeling stressed about redundancy.

The research also looks at broader concerns impacting Britain’s workforce. Some 42% of full-time staff and 38% of part time staff admitted to being stressed about Brexit, while 22% admitted to being concerned about artificial intelligence or robots replacing them at work.

Battling stress

The research also revealed that listening to music was the most common way for Britain’s workforce to relieve stress, with 37% of Brits playing their favourite songs to unwind. A further 32% watch TV and just over a quarter (26%) read books.

While some favour healthy pursuits such as exercise (28%) and gardening (12%) others comfort eat (21%), drink alcohol (19%) and smoke (8%) to relieve stress.

Perhaps more worrying is the impact of stress has on the health of the workforce. According to the study, 41% feel anxious because of stress, while 36% feel tense and 29% said that stress causes restlessness.

In addition, 27% said that were not getting enough sleep due to stress, just under a quarter (24%) revealed that stress was causing a lack of interest in everyday activities and 27% claimed that problems with stress were leading to unhealthy eating.

Eugene Farrell. Mental Health Lead, AXA PPP healthcare commented:

“This research shows that Britain’s workers are struggling to manage their levels of stress. Even in the least stressed sectors – such as training and education and manufacturing – the vast majority of staff are stressed at least some of the time during a typical week.

And, although people are worried about their pay, their job prospects and work life balance, factors such as Brexit and the growing threat of artificial intelligence and robots to their livelihoods are also causing sleepless nights.

However, what is promising is that many respondents are turning to healthy ways to manage stress by taking time to exercise, which is a much better option than comfort eating, drinking or smoking. Stress can cause feelings of anxiousness, restlessness and can make people feel isolated, so it is important that anyone struggling to cope seeks help – for example, from their GP or from the helplines provided by mental health charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the Samaritans. Those whose employer provides access to an employee assistance programme can speak in confidence to a qualified counsellor or therapist too.”

Most stressed sectors (percentage of staff stressed at least some of the time)   

  • 87% Accounting and financial services
  • 87% Cleaning and domestic services
  • 82% Building and construction
  • 81% Retail/Wholesale
  • 80% Creative, design and entertainment               
  • 80% Engineering
  • 80% Transport, freight and haulage

Least stressed sectors (percentage of staff never or rarely stressed)       

  • 29% Training and education
  • 27% Manufacturing
  • 26% Health
  • 21% IT, telecoms, electronics
  • 21% Business services and consulting



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