Posted on 14/05/2019

84% of people feel stressed about developing a long-term health condition

84% of people feel stressed about developing a long-term health condition

Results from our recent nationwide survey on mental health reveal that 84% of participants feel stressed about developing a long-term health condition.

The survey listed arthritis, diabetes and heart disease as examples of possible long-term health conditions, although long-term mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, would also be included.

Out of nearly 1000 participants, 785 admitted they are stressed on some level about being diagnosed with a long-term health condition, although, interestingly, 66% of those who took part in the survey didn’t know that you must have lived with, or be expected to live with, a mental health condition for 12 months in order for it to be classed as long-term.

Common triggers for feeling stressed

Stress can be a huge contributor when it comes to experiencing long-term mental health issues, and we wanted our nationwide survey to explore the themes behind what causes people across the UK to become stressed.

Some of the more common triggers across the various age groups include university, confrontational experiences, relationships (both at work and home), ageing and the risk of losing independence or “becoming invisible to others”, being a carer and attending hospital/doctors/medical appointments.

The latter two triggers in particular could easily link back to people feeling stressed about being diagnosed, or a loved one being diagnosed, with a long-term health condition and how that will impact the way they are judged or treated by others. Poignant responses from the survey, which asked “Are there any other things in particular that cause you stress?”, include:

“My husband has Parkinson's Disease and I am his carer. I lurch from crisis to crisis and have periods of intense loneliness and feel I have his life in my hands. Extreme anxiety and extreme boredom are part of a normal day. He now has dementia which breaks my heart because I have lost my clever funny husband who adored me and I him.” – Female, aged 70-79

“People, including family, not understanding how difficult you find doing anything new and the anxiety it causes…also your family and friends who do not understand any long term illnesses you have; this also includes medical professionals.” – Female, aged 50-59

Long-term health conditions which were specifically mentioned in the survey as causing those living with them to become stressed include PTSD, Prostate Cancer, Anxiety, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, Bi-Polar, Rheumatoid arthritis, Polycystic ovary syndrome, Stroke and Colostomy. In general, being classed as disabled and others not understanding the issues surrounding a disability was also stressful for many participants.

Feeling stressed in social situations

Another interesting result to come from the nationwide survey was that 50% of participants admit to feeling significantly stressed when meeting new people.

The range of social situations which make members of the UK public stressed varies greatly, from many people experiencing stress when they are part of a large crowd, to one participant finding it stressful answering their own front door.

“Crowded places with high levels of noise. When too much is happening at once leaving me feeling very overwhelmed to the point of losing my temper with an outburst or crying.” – Female, aged 18-29

“Answering the phone or the door. Leaving the house.” – Female, aged 50-59

“I am married to a vicar. I find constantly meeting new people in large numbers who think they know me, very difficult. They seem to think that because they know my husband, they know me. Which is not true.” – Female aged 50-59

Of the 131 of males who took part in the survey, 33% said they would feel significantly stressed when meeting new people.

The most popular stress-busting methods

Of the suggestions included in the survey – counselling, yoga, mindfulness mobile app, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, self-care, medication and sharing problems with friends or family – the three most popular ways for relieving stress are:

  • Sharing problems with friends or family (52%)
  • Self Care e.g. eating healthily or getting 8 hours sleep (47%)
  • Counselling (36%)

When it came to ‘Other’ suggestions, exercise, medication and prayer were the three to come out on top, with music, reading, pets, writing down thoughts, dog walking and rant on Twitter also included in ways to bring relief to those who feel stressed.

Focussing on body image

The focus for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is on body image, and we were keen to find out how the UK population views themselves with regards to how comfortable they are in their own skin.

75% of people surveyed are unhappy with the way they look

Uncovering such a staggeringly bleak statistic makes it easy to see why the Mental Health Foundation has chosen to make body image its theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 and why it’s important to spread awareness of this campaign using the hashtag #BeBodyKind. As a society we are very aware of our bodies and the way we look, but we must also learn to be more accepting of ourselves and others!

This applies to both men and women, as our survey found that 52% of males are unhappy or very unhappy with how they look.

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