Stressed out Britons aren't seeking professional advice

With new research finding that 86% of Britons are reluctant to seek professional help for stress and burnout, Cigna launches its 'See Stress Differently' campaign.

Gabby Logan, Cigna, See Stress Differently

Gabby Logan at the launch of Cigna’s ‘See Stress Differently’ campaign

 According to global health service company Cigna, employees in the UK are suffering from major health issues, such as stress, mental wellbeing and burnout, with people often choosing to manage stress themselves rather than consulting a doctor or other healthcare professional.Chronic stress can be very harmful to a person's health and wellbeing, and can have a major impact on their ability to perform at work, engage socially and enjoy life. The most common physical symptoms include problems sleeping (85%), headaches (75%), and high blood pressure (71%).Cigna found that people are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, with a quarter (25%) admitting to stress eating and 14% believing that alcohol reduces their stress levels. Only 14% would speak to a medical professional when feeling stressed, preferring to talk to their partner (46%), family (32%) or friends (29%).

The launch of Cigna’s ‘See Stress Differently’ campaign, with Gabby Logan

Speaking at a lively event held at the OXO Tower on London’s Southbank, to mark the launch of Cigna’s ‘See Stress Differently’ campaign, Gabby Logan, TV presenter, an advocate for health and wellbeing supporting the campaign, called on the audience of HR professionals and employers to encourage their employees to take control.Speaking from personal experience, she said, “Life has definitely got more stressful for me in the past few years, juggling work, family and friends. With a never-ending to-do list of commitments, it can be difficult to take time for myself. This initiative is helping increase awareness around stress so that people recognise that serious chronic illnesses that can be avoided if recognised and diagnosed early. For me, nothing beats a quick 30-minute workout at the end of the day – preferably outside if the weather is okay!” 
Cigna infographic: see stress differently
Jason Sadler, president, Cigna International Markets referring to their 360 Global Well-Being Survey 2019 confirmed stress in the workplace is a global issue and a contributor to many chronic diseases. In response to its findings, Cigna has launched its 'See Stress Differently' campaign, which aims to raise awareness of stress, encourage people to talk to a medical professional, and create a straightforward plan for people to better manage stress and its side effects.

Technology to visualise stress can help employers and employees

Cigna stress portrait
Cigna's stress map portrait - the blues and greens indicate low stress
With clever technology and the input of a digital artist Cigna have managed to visualise stress in the form of a stress face map portrait. Gabby Logan demonstrated the technology which only took a couple of minutes. There was no shortage of volunteers to take the test and guests were keen to take away their own stress portrait, a memento with predominant blues and greens indicating low stress and purple, red and yellow hues revealing high stress. 

Stress and the healthy workplace: leadership needs to come from the top

Making the invisible visible in this way could be a powerful tool in the workplace, enabling employers to have those conversations around stress, work-life balance and a 24/7 addiction to mobile devices. Undoubtedly employers are key stakeholders in health and wellbeing at work but individuals are also stakeholders and need to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing too.A panel discussion which included Henrietta de Beer, UN chief of staff HR underlined the importance of the leadership message coming from the top in creating a healthy workplace with a resilient and healthy workforce.

Speak to your doctor if you or your employee is experiencing symptoms of stress

It is widely recognised stress affects physical health too, with 62% of respondents recognising the link.When professional medical advice is avoided, lesser-known physical symptoms of stress can often go undiagnosed. This can result in people trying to find cures for the symptoms of chronic stress, rather than addressing the root cause. The symptoms least likely to be recognised as stress-related are:
  • backache (29%),
  • blurred eyesight or sore eyes (33%)
  • indigestion or heartburn (46%)
Also speaking at the event, Dr Peter Mills, Cigna's medical director, said: “It’s sad to say that I’m not shocked people are willing to accept physical symptoms of stress such as headaches and loss of libido without speaking to a medical professional. While it is important to have a supportive social group during stressful times, the best person you can speak to is your doctor.“When people fall into a habit of trying to treat the physical symptoms of stress, rather than the root cause, the results can have long term impact on their mental and physical health. That’s why we need to adopt a more open approach to healthcare – and chronic stress in particular – that addresses both the physical and mental effects, or as I like to call it, whole person health.”
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Cigna’s annual global 360 Global Well-Being Survey found that 87% of workers feel stressed and 12% feel their stress is unmanageable. This may be a result of an ‘always on’ culture in the workforce. New research reveals that 87% of managers admit to having their work phone on them outside of office hours and when on annual leave, setting an unhealthy precedent for staff.In fact, only one in 10 Britons have taken a sick day off due to stress-related issues in the last year, but felt they were unable to admit the real reason for doing so – with the majority (64%) either claiming they have a physical illness or not giving a reason at all. 

The interconnection between mental and physical health

Phil Austin, Cigna Europe CEO, said, “Mental health and physical health – mind and body – are interconnected, taking action so that people and healthcare professionals better understand the link means we can do more, sooner, to help people stay healthy. We can’t hide from the fact that the workplace is a stressful place to be, but what we can do is give managers and employees the tools to manage their stress in a structured and engaging way.“Cigna wants to help the world take control of stress and hopes to reduce stress-related chronic illnesses. By taking a proactive approach to manage stress, we can reduce chronic illnesses, and lead happier, healthier and longer lives and by encouraging people to seek the right advice, we can potentially, save lives as part of our core mission to improve the health, wellbeing and peace of mind of those we serve.”Cigna is on a mission to help people take control of their stress by encouraging them to create a personal Stress Care PLAN. They advise that people find a:
  • Period of time to unwind: Set aside a designated time each day to slow down and relax
  • Location that is stress reducing: Designate a physical place to take a break, whether it’s the gym or a coffee shop 
  • Activity to enjoy: Choose an activity but make sure it’s easily accessible, practical and affordable 
  • Name of a person to talk to: Find someone you are comfortable talking to who will offer you support and guidance 
To learn more about Cigna visit www.cigna.comDownload Relocate Global’s new Factsheet: Health, Wellbeing and Work-life Balance in our Global Mobility Toolkit

For more news and views on employee stress, health and wellbeing, visit our dedicated Global Health and Wellness section. 

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