Swiss and Swedes are Europe's most stressed


Workers in Switzerland and Sweden are the most stressed in Europe, a new survey has suggested, with stress levels in British workplaces well below the European average.

A third of workers in Switzerland and Sweden felt that their workplaces were "too stressful", according to a poll of 19,000 people across 12 countries by recruitment agency Kelly Services.

In contrast, only one in five (20 per cent) of British workers felt a similar level of anxiety, a figure bettered only by Spain and the Netherlands at 16 per cent.

Both figures are well below the European average of 27 per cent. The poll found that men, older staff and those in steady jobs felt under the greatest pressure. Stress also appears to increase significantly with age, rising from 19 per cent in the 15-24 age bracket to 23 per cent for those aged 45 and above.

A correlation also emerged between stress and working long hours. Half of those working in excess of 51 hours a week felt stressed compared to 34 per cent of those working between 41-50 hours and 18 per cent for those working 30 hours or less.

But as Kelly Services pointed out, these differences could be explained by the fact that older people and those working longer hours could be feeling more stress in their home lives than younger people as well as having more responsibility at work.

But far more unequivocal is the link between stress and job satisfaction.

Fewer than one in three of those surveyed (28 per cent) who felt under too much stress said they were happy in their jobs compared with two thirds of those who felt "just the right amount of stress".

Research earlier this year by Britain's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that only four out of 10 workers felt they were in "good" jobs - in other words ones that were interesting and exiting but not unduly stressful.

Meanwhile a recent Canadian study found that having a supportive spouse to go home to can help lower the negative impact of a stressful day at work on a person's blood pressure.

"A certain amount of stress is inevitable and can be a good thing when it pushes people beyond their comfort zone to work harder and smarter," said Kelly Services' Steve Girdler.

"But workers facing chronic high levels of stress are not performing to their optimum, while their own situation is probably impacting on colleagues, customers or others in the organisation itself."

"The key is to strike the right balance between challenging and stressful work."