Stressed on Both Sides of The Pond: How Do UK and US Stress Rates Compare?

The UK and US might be a considerable distance apart, with differing everyday cultures. But we do have one thing in common: stress! Stress has become associated with the workplace more and more in recent years, with many people feeling worn down by the demands of 9-5 office life. In the UK, four out of five of those who work in an office said that they had experienced burnout, a notorious epidemic which comes as a result of stress. Across the pond in America, 83% of American employees said that they had experienced work-related stress, and this statistic has increased steadily in the past few years.

Whether it is expressed during a workplace rant over a morning coffee, or by taking to Twitter to voice our frustrations, it seems that many of us are relatively open when it comes to admitting that we are stressed. So, considering the above, we’ve analysed data from Babylon Health on some major towns and cities in the UK and US, ranking them on how many ‘stressed out’ tweets had been sent in each location. The tweets are recorded on the premise that they contained words relating to frustration, stress and anxiety, with over 5 million global posts being assessed against the stress-ometer.

Stress: quintessentially British?

Imagine a typical British businessman and you’re likely to conjure up a certain image.  Crisp men’s shirt, juggling a briefcase and a takeout coffee in hand, searching for a spot with enough signal to tap into the morning’s conference call. Most businessmen try to convey a vibe of consistency and composure, but the reality for many is a gruelling workload and weekly hours which stretch far beyond 5 o’clock. Business etiquette is taken rather seriously, but the fact that over 11 million days are lost due to stress from UK businesses each year should be prioritised.

The UK has plenty of major cities which are notorious for business culture, but what is perhaps most surprising is the fact that many of the places we associate with the hustle and bustle of business didn’t rank notably high in terms of stressed-out tweets.

The first large city to rank in the Babylon Health study was Cardiff, with 11.97% of tweets recorded as being stress related. Over the border in Scotland, 10.43% of all tweets analysed in Glasgow were stress related, and this fell to 9.19% in Edinburgh. Cross the Irish sea and arrive in Northern Ireland’s bustling business hub of Belfast, where only 9.24% of tweets fell into the ‘stressed’ category. Most surprisingly amongst the stats is London, and the average amount of stressed tweets across all boroughs including the central district was 8.63% — considering that the city generates 22% of the UK’s overall GDP. This is notably lower than the figure for the city of London alone, which stands at 7.05%. More than 400,000 daily commuters flow through the central area, but they appear to be tweeting less about their daily stresses while they are commuting or at work. The figure for the boroughs excluding the central zone is 8.68%, suggesting that the stressed tweets are far freer flowing once workers have returned home for the day.

The finding from the most stressed UK counties revealed some surprises — with North Yorkshire (10.07%) and Worcestershire (10.56%) and Cumbria (8.65%) all in the top half of the results table. In Cornwall, Devon and West Sussex, the most stressful day of the week according to the data was Saturday, while residents in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Shropshire all falling victim to the more conventional Monday stress woes.

The United States of stress?

In the USA, nearly $300 billion is lost annually as a result of workplace stress, and only a mere 43% of employees believe that their employers care about the welfare of their wider workforce. We’ve taken a look at the US social media stress plight, and there are some equally interesting results from our American counterparts.

While the West Coast of America is known most for its laid back, low key approach to everyday life, and the East Coast a polar opposite to this, the social media stress results served up some unexpected results! Along the West Coast, California topped the table as the most stressed state with Chula Vista (12.03%), Bakersfield (11.96%), Stockton (11.91%) and Santa Ana (11.89%) all generating quite the opposite image of California, going against the stereotype of the ultra-relaxed, sun-kissed workforce — worlds apart from commuters as they surge through Grand Central Station pouring out onto the New York streets.

Overall, the sunshine state of Florida had the most stressed city, with 13.03% stressed tweets coming from the area. The home of congress and a hub for American politics, Washington DC was surprisingly less stressed than those on the West Coast, hitting only 9.66% on the social media stress-o-meter! The most stressed out state was Alaska (11.69%), which also comes as a surprise due to the vast, tranquil expanse of land that it encompasses.

Lessening workplace stress

No matter what side of the Atlantic you live on, if you’re feeling stressed then there are ways to tackle workplace woes. From introducing a calming, new interior décor scheme, to having an office dog, there are ways to combat those everyday challenges. Changing the nature of your office space is also a great place to start, and many people concentrate better in an environment which stimulates or engages them. Through simple touches such as indoor plants or wall prints to name a few, you can create a space which is more appealing to work in.

Many modern offices have dedicated breakout spaces for employees, where they can take a break away from the screen, allowing them some down time. Employees perform best under individual circumstances, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach for the working day. These spaces can facilitate a few minutes for simply processing information or catching up with colleagues, or alternatively they could promote effective, collaborative work.

Keeping your staff fit and healthy is also important and investing in their wellbeing should be paramount. From introducing standing desks to employing a cycle to work scheme or a gym membership perk, letting your employees feel at their best while also promoting the release of stress-busting endorphins — simply by getting active!

While stress might seem part and parcel of many roles nowadays, it shouldn’t have to be this way. Focus should certainly be placed on helping employees to combat this attitude effectively. Employee welfare is an important provision to have in place, whether you offer counselling sessions or stress-busting initiatives such as staff activities, flexible hours, and work from home days. Experiencing stress is inevitable from time to time. But placing value in employee welfare should be a priority for businesses. It’s also essential for workers to address any 9-5 stresses and approach them wisely, as a social media rant doesn’t always pay its dividends!

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