Asia worse hit by global stress epidemic

2006

Stress levels around the world are rocketing, a new report has found, with more than half of executives worldwide saying they felt under greater stress last year than they did in 2004 and those in Asia's booming tiger economies feeling the greatest pressure.

Grant Thornton's 2006 International Business Owners Survey (IBOS) examined the stress levels of more than 7,000 business leaders in 30 countries.

Taiwan topped the league table of countries to report rising stress levels, with almost nine out of 10 (89 per cent) of business owners saying they felt under increased pressure in 2005 compared to the previous year.

China came second on 87 per and the Philippines was third on 76 per cent, according to the report by the London-based accounting and consulting firm. Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia filled the fifth, sixth and seventh spots.

The only country among the top six which is not in Asian is Botswana, in fourth place.

Globally, 57 per cent of executives surveyed complained of rising stress levels compared to 39 per cent in the 2004 survey. Fewer than six per cent said that their stress levels had gone down.

"Stress levels rocketed in 2005 - all around the world, whether economic activity was picking up or slowing down," said Grant Thornton's Andrew Godfrey.

"Keeping up with fast growth or combating recession are both equally stressful, although Asian business leaders are under particular strain, as their businesses and markets continue to show phenomenal growth."

In contrast, Swedish business owners emerged as by far the most relaxed in the survey, with only a quarter (24 per cent) saying that their anxiety levels had risen in 2005.

This was fully 16 per cent lower than second-from bottom Italy (40 per cent), with other EU states – Spain, France, the UK and Netherlands – reporting similar increases of 42 to 43 per cent.

The U.S. emerged as seventh-from bottom, with 45 per cent reporting increased stress in 2005. Canada and Australia both reported levels of 48 per cent.

However this was lower than Germany, where serious economic difficulties meant that half said their stress levels were up in 2005.

According to Grant Thornton, one of the main contributors to stress is the amount of holiday taken by business owners around the world.

Business owners in China, Botswana, Hong Kong and Singapore take only 11 days, on average, while those in most-stressed Taiwan take just eight. And business owners in Thailand, 62 per cent of whom said they were more stressed in 2005, take a mere four days off on average.

In contrast, European take far more time off, averaging 22 days holidays compared to 12 in East Asia.

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