New data shows more than 1 in 4 Australians over 18 are affected by stress. We take a look at what’s behind the trend.

Can stress lead to a bad heart?

Ever feel like you are struggling to keep up with work, family commitments or just life in general? If so, you’re not alone.

New Medibank Better Health Index data estimates 5.2 million Australians over the age of 18 were affected by stress, up from 3.7 million 10 years ago. And our fast-paced lifestyles may be to blame, with almost two thirds (63%) of workers feeling there are ‘not enough hours in the day’.

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Another Medibank survey of 1000 Australians also found workplace pressures were amongst the major causes of stress for Australians, with more than one in two (52%) full time workers saying their job was a source of stress. Financial pressures (52%), and juggling too many things (42%) were also key factors.

Commenting on the findings, Psychologist Audrey McGibbon said:

“While a certain amount of stress is healthy, there’s no doubt that persistent stress overload is a significant contributor to ill health, and that’s why these findings are concerning.”

Not only can prolonged stress contribute to health issues like anxiety and depression, there is growing evidence to suggest it affects our physical health as well by increasing your heart rate and putting extra strain on your body.

However, there are ways to reduce your stress levels and a range of supports available.

“There are a range of education and coaching programs available that cover stress, anxiety, general and mental wellbeing; all producing positive results,” says Audrey.

Tips for dealing with stress

  • Manage your workload: Work plays an important role in our lives, but if it’s contributing to your stress, there are ways to manage it. Try to avoid long hours and additional responsibilities, and learn how to say no to things if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Do something you enjoy each day: It’s important to have some balance in your life. Take time out to do something you enjoy, like reading, listening to music or spending time with family and friends.
  • Get moving: Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve mood. Aim for around 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day – this could be anything from walking to work or going to the gym. If you’re looking for ideas, check out Medibank Free + Active, which offers a range of free, social activities around the country.
  • Practice mindfulness: Breathing exercises, meditation and other relaxation techniques can help to manage some of the symptoms of stress. You can even practice mindfulness while commuting to and from work with the help of handy meditation apps. Or try our free School of Better course on wellbeing and mindfulness.
  • Get support: If you’re struggling to manage your stress, it’s important to seek support. Many workplaces have employee assistance programs, and your GP is always available to help.

Looking for more mental health tips and information? Visit our mental health collection for everything from relaxation tips to information on conditions like depression and anxiety.