Balancing Stress

Written on the 2 December 2010

AUGUST 2010

GOLD Coast homes de affaires are more stressed in 2010 than they were in 2009, according to a Lifeline annual stress poll.

The latest Newspoll shows that 90 per cent of the population is experiencing stress in their lives. That’s nine out of 10 people, or 20 million Australians.

The poll also identified that 43 per cent of Australians, or just under 9.5 million of us, are very stressed. That means that over 650,000 more Australians are stressed this year, when compared with last year.

So how do we stack up against the Americans? Surely we can’t be as stressed as the nation that kick-started the global downturn.

“In fact, Australians are more stressed than Americans,” says Lifeline’s Lis Flynn.

“Believe it or not, when you compare the results of America’s last stress poll (2009) to ours, we are significantly more stressed out than they are.

“Their poll had just 75 per cent of people stressed with 25 per cent experiencing high levels of stress, while our results are 90 per cent and 43 per cent in comparison. Australians really need to work at managing their stress levels.”

The poll shows the No.1 stress factor for Australians is work, with 74 per cent of people who work finding it ‘stressful’ and 23 per cent finding work ‘very stressful’. These results reflect the statistics captured in 2009.

The No.2 cause was identified as thoughts of the future, with 69 per cent worried about what’s over the horizon and 16 per cent very stressed about it.

“Last year the No.2 spot was filled by stress about finances, so the shift to stress about what the future holds is significant. Perhaps this new focus is the result of the recent global financial crisis or recent and looming elections both here and overseas. Whatever it is, it is making people worried,” says Flynn.

The annual stress poll also revealed that 65 per cent of Aussies are concerned about their finances, with 21 per cent very stressed about it. Stress about health is at 57 per cent and personal relationships are at 42 per cent.

With stress comes burnout and that’s costing us billions of dollars a year in productivity, according to corporate wellbeing expert Dr Paul Lanthois.

Lanthois suggests that even though many employees are turning up to work each day, they may be underperforming to the point where at least 24 working days are lost every year through poor productivity.

One of the largest causes of productivity loss is presenteeism, costing businesses four times as much as absenteeism. Presenteeism is the loss of productivity that occurs when employees come to work but aren’t fully functioning due to illness or injury.

A recent study commissioned by Medibank Private revealed that presenteeism costs the Australian economy $25.7 billion in 2005-06, the equivalent of six working days per employee per year.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” warns Lanthois, author of From Burnout to Balance in Four Weeks.

”The study only measured the productivity impact of 12 particular medical conditions and didn’t include obesity or arthritis, both of which were found in an American study to be among the top six most costly
medical conditions in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism.

“When you account for the impact of these medical conditions, the cost of colds and flus, substance abuse, smoking, alcohol, fatigue, sleep deprivation and other undiagnosed medical conditions, the numbers start to become worrying. Add the $14.8 billion burden that workplace stress places on Australian business each year and the cost becomes too great to ignore.”

Aussie battlers the most stressed

Middle income families, or the ‘Aussie battlers’ are almost 15 per cent more highly stressed than the rest of the country.

People living in low income households are the least stressed, with people in high income households coming second, leaving people in middle income households as the most stressed.

Low income households are judged as households living on less than $40,000, middle income are households on $41,000 to $79,000 and high income households are households on more than $80,000.

“Respondents living on middle incomes are some of the most stressed people we surveyed overall, with 95 per cent of respondents stressed and 57 per cent very stressed,” says Lifeline general manager Peter Loughnane.

“That means that middle income earners are almost 15 per cent more highly stressed that the average. That’s a lot of high level stress that could result in health and wellbeing problems.

“The reasons behind this stress may be to do with the stage of life that can come with middle incomes. It can often be people with young families and new mortgages, and all the pressures that come with this. Our research also shows that people 25-29 are the most stressed.”

Loughnane says society tends to put material pressures on the community and it’s people aged in their 20s and 30s who are often the target for luxury items. The disappointment associated with the inability to buy these items can add to stress levels.

“I hope that people realise that these material possessions do not make you happy, it’s the relationships you have and the connections you make with each other that are important. Friends and family are the key to helping us manage and reduce stress,” he says.


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