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1 month ago

The Most Stressful Professions in the UK

Work-related stress is a major problem, with those affected experiencing difficulty completing their tasks at work, finding themselves needing to take more time off, or even having to leave their jobs. It can even lead to mental and physical health issues, with stress being a significant risk factor for serious illness. It’s an important issue, and the more businesses can do to be aware of the factors that can cause it, the better.

Stress can affect anyone in a business, from the owner to any of their employees. As well as affecting individuals’ wellbeing, it can have a serious impact on their output and the business’s productivity on the whole.

Our new survey has revealed that more than one in ten UK workers experienced stress in 2023, at 12.5%. Our team at BusinessComparison conducted research to find out which industries, sectors and career paths experience the most stress, as well as identify which regions have the highest amounts of work-related stress.

Highest Stress Occupations in 2023

highest stress occupations

In 2023, the professionals most likely to have experienced stress were those in customer service occupations - over a quarter said they had been affected at 27%. This percentage is more than double the national average.

The next most stressed-out workers were those in services occupations, at 23.6% - closely followed by cleaning occupations (22.9%) and storage occupations (21.7%).

Web and multimedia design professionals also experienced a higher-than-average percentage of stress, at 20.9%.

Lowest Stress Occupations in 2023

lowest stress occupationsThose who reported the lowest stress levels in 2023 were production managers and directors, at 4%.

Science, engineering and production technicians experienced the second lowest levels of stress, with only 5.6% saying they had been affected in the previous year.

A lower-than-average 5% of managers and proprietors in health and care services reported experiencing stress in 2023, as did 6.2% of those in building and finishing trades. Sports and fitness occupations were the fifth least stressful in 2023, with 6.5% affected. This is just over half the national average.

Stress Increase 2022-2023 by Occupation

Regulatory associate professionals experienced the highest increase in stress over the last year, rising by 8.8% from 9.2% affected in 2022 to 18% in 2023.

The profession with the next highest increase in stress was managers and directors in transport and logistics, the percentage rising by 7.7% to 17.2% last year.

7.6% more of those in housekeeping and related services experienced stress in 2023 than in 2022, with the percentage rising to 12.9%.

In 2023, the percentage of medical practitioners admitting they had felt stressed increased by 6.3% to 17.2%.

As well as experiencing the highest level of stress, customer service operations staff also reported the fifth biggest increase in stress, as it rose 5.6% between 2022 and 2023.

Occupation

Stress level 2022

Stress level 2023

Change 2022-2023

Regulatory associate professionals

9.2%

18%

+8.8%

Managers and directors in transport and logistics

9.5%

17.2%

+7.7%

Housekeeping and related services

5.3%

12.9%

+7.6%

Medical practitioners

10.9%

17.2%

+6.3%

Customer service operations

21.4%

27%

+5.6%

Stress Decrease 2022-2023 by Occupation

The occupations that experienced the biggest decrease in stress over the last year were those working in sports and fitness. While 18.6% said they were stressed in 2022, only 6.5% did in 2023, a drop of 12.1%.

The next biggest decrease in stress was felt by business associate professionals, the percentage dropping by 11.2% down to 12.2%.

Science, engineering and production technicians, the second least stressed profession, were nowhere near that place in 2022 - 14.8% were stressed in the previous year, but it dropped to 5.6%, by 9.2%.

In 2023, the percentage of media professionals who were affected by stress fell by 9%, down to 18.5%.

Lastly, those in an educational role who were not teachers or working in childcare experienced a decrease in stress of 7.2%, down to 10.1%.

Occupation

Stress level 2022

Stress level 2023

Change 2022-2023

Sports and fitness occupations

18.6%

6.5%

-12.1%

Business associate professionals

23.4%

12.2%

-11.2%

Science, engineering and production technicians

14.8%

5.6%

-9.2%

Media professionals

27.5%

18.5%

-9%

Other educational professions

17.3%

10.1%

-7.2%

Stress 2018-2023

occupations affected by stress

Looking back over the past 5 years, you can see that some occupations have experienced dramatic shifts in their stress levels.

While those in customer service occupations experienced a gradual increase in stress between 2018 and 2021, the most significant change has been within the last year.

Shopkeepers’ and sales supervisors’ stress peaked in 2019, with 26.1% affected. It dropped steadily until 2022, when it began to rise again gradually. Over 5 years, they have experienced a drop in stress of 8.2%.

For customer service professionals and shopkeepers, could the rise in stress from 2022 onwards be related to retail and other customer-facing industries opening up more and more after the Covid-19 pandemic?

The level of stress for managers and proprietors of health and care services rose from 10.9% in 2020 to 16.1% the following year. It’s likely that Covid-19 had a significant impact, with many care homes experiencing great difficulty protecting vulnerable residents from the virus.

Sports and fitness occupations reported a higher than average amount of stress in 2022, at 18.6% - but this dropped over the following year, with these professionals experiencing one of the lowest stress levels in 2023. The annual State of UK Fitness Industry Report 2023 revealed that from 2022 to 2023, the industry’s market value increased by 11.5%, and both monthly membership fees and the number of members rose. Perhaps this contributed to the easing of sports and fitness professionals’ stress last year.

For managers and directors in transport and logistics, stress rose year on year from 5.7% in 2021 and 9.5% in 2022 to 17.2% in 2023. One reason for this could be increased costs, specifically labour and fuel. According to the UK Logistics Confidence Index 2023, 75% of the industry felt conditions were more difficult than the year before.

Reducing Stress at Work

The NHS says that two of the most common factors which can contribute to work-related stress are “a lack of control of our workload” and “high demands on our time and energy and lack of clarity about responsibilities”.

If you, your coworkers or your employees are feeling stressed because of these factors, there are a few things you can do. Aside from looking into expanding your team to share the workload, consider exploring whether your business could upgrade its systems or technology to reduce the pressure on employees.

For example, if an out-of-date VoIP phone system that keeps dropping calls is making it harder for staff who talk to customers and clients to manage their workload, you could see if another business telephone system provider might be able to support your business better.

Or if late paying customers are affecting your cash flow, invoice financing could free up your finance team from chasing those customers, leaving them more time in their day to concentrate on other tasks.

Other factors increasing stress include difficult interpersonal relationships with colleagues, poor line management and lack of support, discrimination and harassment, and fear of redundancy or changes.

From this list, it is clear that managers have a very significant role in the wellbeing of their employees, supporting them in their work, communicating clearly about any upcoming changes, and being aware of interpersonal issues within the team.

There is no excuse for discrimination at work. According to the 2010 Equality Act, all employers must make sure they do not discriminate against anyone with a protected characteristic such as disability. They must also do all they reasonably can to protect people from discrimination by others.

The Most and Least Stressed UK Regions in 2023

the most and least stressed UK regionsThe UK region with the highest number of people experiencing stress in 2023 was Northern Ireland, where 17.7% reported being affected, a full 5% higher than the UK on the whole.

Contrastingly, the least stressed region was not particularly far off the national average - the North East had 10.8% affected in 2023, but it was closely followed by the South East and South West both at 11%.

Methodology

All the data was taken from the Labour Force Survey for the years 2018 through 2023, as available via the UK Data Service. The percentage of workers affected by mental health issues was calculated as the number of those indicating "depression, bad nerves" or "mental illness, phobia, panics" being their main health problem, divided by the total number of workers in a given occupation (based on Standard Occupational Classification) or region. Only the occupations with at least 100 workers surveyed in each year were included in the analysis.

Data was collected in February 2024.

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Sam White