Media releases

October 10, 2013

85% of Australian workers experience stress resulting in over 20 million sick days per year

- Costs the Australian economy $14.81 billion per year* -
- Western Australia is the most stressed state -
- Men experience significantly more stress than women -

Despite our image of being a chilled out nation, new research shows 85% of Australians experience severe stress at work with half of full-timers feeling seriously pressured most weeks of the year. As a result 15% take sick days at least every month or more resulting in over 20 million days off per year due to stress, costing the economy $14.81 billion annually.

The research, conducted by the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line in light of Mental Health Week (6-13 October), discovered this feeling of pressure is effecting people's personal time - around three quarters (68%) of workers have had sleepless nights as a direct result of work stress.

Western Australia is the most stressed state with a quarter (25%) of workers experiencing sleepless nights every week. On the other end of the scale, Queensland is the least stressed state at over ten percent less than the national average. However if serious stress does occur, Queenslanders are most likely to take a day off.

The research also found women workers experience significantly less stress than men overall. When it does occur, women are much more likely to confide in colleagues, partners and friends - interestingly however, men are slightly more likely to tell their boss. But overall, 1 in 10 workers would suffer in silence and not tell anyone at all.

Commenting, Melissa Lehmann, Psychologist for the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line says: 'Work stress can cause a huge range of symptoms - some, such as headaches or sleep problems, are more known than others but stress can also contribute to serious long term conditions such as heart disease, depression and anxiety. What is surprising about this research is the sheer amount of people it is affecting nationwide.

As well as psychological problems, a quarter of Australians believe they work for an organisation with a high risk of harm to their physical health. Call data from the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line shows people frequently call with both mental and physical symptoms that could be related to stress.

'What is key going forward, is that staff and management try to eradicate the root of the problem and if people are still suffering symptoms of stress, they need to seek advice from a medical professional.'

Frank Quinlan, CEO of Mental Health Council of Australia, says: 'World Health Week is a national event that coincides with World Mental Health Day (10 October), it aims to promote social and emotional wellbeing in the community. Workplace stress is one of the most common health issues affecting Australia today and as a nation we must raise awareness amongst both employers and employees alike.

'Stress is caused by a range of issues including long hours, large workloads, job insecurity or conflicts at work and the symptoms can severely impact on quality of life. We all have increasingly busier lives, this World Mental Health Day we are encouraging employers and employees to work together to help manage pressures that cause serious work stress and help people open up about problems they face.'

It is important for workers who experience serious work related stress to speak to a trusted medical professional, all Medibank members with hospital cover can speak to a qualified nurse at any time of the day or night on the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line.

Research conducted by Galaxy Research for the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line on 19-24 April 2013 on a sample of 1,061 Australians across the country.

*The Cost of Workplace Stress - report conducted by EconTech for Medibank 2008

'A quarter of Australians believe they work for an organisation with a high risk of harm to their physical health' - refers to Workplace Health: Workers' Perspectives - report conducted by Allen Consulting Group for Medibank 2011

Back to top