Mental health statistics: stress

Results of the Mental Health Foundation's 2018 study

The study was an online poll undertaken by YouGov, and had a sample size of 4,619 respondents. This is the largest known study of stress levels in the UK.

  • In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Age differences

  • 30% of older people reported never feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope in the past year, compared to 7% of young adults.

Behavioural effects

  • 46% reported that they ate too much or ate unhealthily due to stress. 29% reported that they started drinking or increased their drinking, and 16% reported that they started smoking or increased their smoking.

Psychological effects

  • 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed, and 61% reported feeling anxious.
  • Of the people who said they had felt stress at some point in their lives, 16% had self harmed and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings.
  • 37% of adults who reported feeling stressed reported feeling lonely as a result.

Causes of stress

  • 36% of all adults who reported stress in the previous year cited either their own or a friend/relative's long-term health condition as a factor. This rose to 44% of adults over 55.
  • Of those who reported feeling stressed in the past year, 22% cited debt as a stressor.
  • For people who reported high levels of stress, 12% said that feeling like they need to respond to messages instantly was a stressor.
  • 49% of 18-24 year olds who have experienced high levels of stress, felt that comparing themselves to others was a source of stress, which was higher than in any of the older age groups.
  • 36% of women who felt high levels of stress related this to their comfort with their appearance and body image, compared to 23% of men.
  • Housing worries are a key source of stress for younger people (32% of 18-24 year olds cited it as a source of stress in the past year). This is less so for older people (22% for 45-54 year olds and just 7% for over 55s).
  • Younger people have higher stress related to the pressure to succeed. 60% of 18-24 year olds and 41% of 25-34 year olds cited this, compared to 17% of 45-54s and 6% of over 55s).