Stress No.1 Reason Brits Miss Work (& Costs Employers £4541 Per Employee Every Year)

A new study by UK Sauna’s wellbeing specailists has investigated the number of employees taking time off due to a range of work-induced illnesses.

Using a combination of data from HSE, ONS, and local search, the study seeks to answer the questions: how many employees are missing work because of work-related stress; how have these trends changed over the past 5 years; where in the UK is this issue most prevalent; which employees are the most impacted by work-related stress; and how much is stress costing UK businesses?

Key Findings

  • Employees in Britain missed an estimated 32, 520, 000 days of work in 2020
  • Work-related stress, anxiety, and depression constituted almost 50% of days missed from work in 2020.
  • Both the prevalence and incidence of work-related stress, depression, and anxiety have dramatically increased since 2014
  • 21% of Google searches for terms relating to stress at work were made in South East England.
  • Kent has the highest proportion of stressed-out employees in the UK.
  • Women experienced more work-related stress than men between 2017-2020, particularly those in the 25-34 age group.
  • Absences due to work-related stress, anxiety, and depression cost employers an average of £4541 per employee every year.


GRAPH 1: Reasons UK Employees Missed Work Last Year

In 2020, employees in Britain missed an estimated 32, 520, 000 days of work. Job-related stress, anxiety and depression made up almost 50% of this statistic. This costed employers an average of £4541 per employee each year.

Reasons UK employees missed work in 2020


Since 2014, the number of people experiencing work-related stress, anxiety and depression has increased at an unprecedented rate. In 2020 , 820, 000 UK employees reported feeling stressed out at work, citing office politics, lack of interdepartmental communications, job performance and tensions with managers as primary causes. According to experts, Covid-19 has not contributed significantly to work-related stress, suggesting, worryingly, that rates will continue to increase following the conclusion of the pandemic.

GRAPH 2: Days Lost for Work-related Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Days lost due to stress, anxiety or depression, 2014-2020, and predicted days lost 2021-2024

In 2014, an estimated 1,247 (thousands) people were suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety.  By 2020, this figure had increased by over 30%. If the current trend continues, the prevalence of work related stress, depression and anxiety will increase a further 30% by 2024. 


According to additional research into local keyword data, the South East of England has the highest levels of workplace-stress.

MAP 1: The Highest Number of Searches Relating to Work-place Stress (Per Region)

The most stressed out employees in the UK, per region (according to local search data)

21% of searches for terms relating to stress at work were made in South East England, with Kent being the worst-hit county in the UK. Conversely, Wales was found to be the most content region with only a 1% share of searches. 

MAP 2: The Top 10 Locations with Searches Relating to Work-place Stress (Per County)

Kent is home to the most stressed out employees in Britain, followed by Surrey and Cheshire.

Top UK locations for stressed out employees, per county, 1-10, highest-lowest (according to local search volume)


TABLE 1: The Top 10 Most Stressful Places for Employees

Position Location Impressions Population County Region
1 West Malling 7.6 2,223 Kent South East England
2 Hindhead 7.6 4,595 Surrey South East England
3 Tattenhall 7.6 4,841 Cheshire North West England
4 Odiham 7.6 5,721 Hampshire South East England
5 Bagshot 7.48 5,920 Surrey South East England
6 Pontefract 30.41 31,000 West Yorkshire  North England
7 Hook 7.6 7,770 Hampshire South East England
8 Portlethen 7.48 9,090 Aberdeenshire  Scotland
9 Alloa 15.21 20,730 Clackmannanshire  Scotland
10 Iver 7.6 12,189 Buckinghamshire  South East England


In 2020, women experienced considerably more stress, depression and anxiety than their male counterparts. The highest incidences of stress, anxiety, and depression were reported by women in the 25-34 age group.

GRAPH 3: Rates of Absence Relating to Stress, Anxiety or Depression (by gender)

This could be attributed to lower pay, lack of potential for career progression, job insecurity and limited flexibility in regard to working hours. 


Increasingly, businesses are implementing schemes to improve physical comfort at work. Many employers ask, for example, that employees complete work-station risk assessments, seeking to encourage good posture and regular breaks from screens. This appears effective, with the prevalence of health issues traditionally associated with the workplace, such as Musculoskeletal Disorders, decreasing in comparison to previous years.

With work-related stress, anxiety, and depression on the rise, however, it begs the question; should employees be doing more for mental wellbeing?

In April 2019, the World Health Organisation officially recognised the concept of “burnout” as an occupational phenomenon.

With almost half of us experiencing stress at work on a daily basis, finding an effective solution is crucial. When asked about their work-related stress, anxiety or depression, many respondents identified their manager as the cause.

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies that managers can use to reduce employee stress. In recent months, industry experts have emphasised the importance of resilience. Building resilience encourages employees to respond to potential stressors positively, and enables them to adapt to rapidly changing environments. Cultivation of a positive organisational culture is crucial when building resilient teams. Support, rather than criticise employees that may be struggling with deadlines.

Managers should ensure effective, open communication and practice active listening, checking in regularly with employees and addressing potential concerns. Flexible work policies can be implemented to demonstrate trust between manager and employee. Encourage your team to practice self-care. Regular exercise, such as Pilates, yoga, and walking can be great ways to combat stress, anxiety and depression. 


Data visualisation 1 – Days lost from work due to work related stress, anxiety and depression

We analysed quantitative data from Health and Safety England which showed the number of days missed from work due to various illnesses in 2020. Data was collected annually between 2001 – 2020. We focused on a six year period (2014-2020) and found a positive correlation between year and number of days missed. We then used this data to predict a four year trend. 

Data visualisation 2 – Reasons UK employees missed work in 2020

We analysed quantitative data from Health and Safety England which showed the number of days missed from work in 2020. We compared data for musculoskeletal disorders, conditions relating to the upper limbs, conditions relating to the lower limbs and back, breathing problems and stress, depression and anxiety. We discovered that stress, depression and anxiety constituted 47% of all days missed in 2020. 

Data visualisation 5 – Rates of absence relating to stress, anxiety or depression

We analysed quantitative data from Health and Safety England which showed the number of days lost from work in between 2017 – 2020 due to stress, anxiety or depression. Data was divided by gender and age group. We discovered that, on average, women were far more stressed than men. Women from the 25-34 age group were most stressed. 

Local data 

To find data on where stress-related work absences were most prevalent in the UK, we used a combination of data sources. 

[i] We analysed quantitative data from Health and Safety England which showed the number of days missed from work due to various categories of illness in 2020. Data was collected annually between 2001 and 2020. 

We organised the data available for this year to determine which regions had the highest prevalence and incidence rates of absences from work, due to stress, depression or anxiety that was triggered or made worse by work. This was broken into 12 regions (see maps and table). 

This allowed us to see which were the worst-hit regions for this category of absence. 

[ii] Once we had these results, we used search data to look deeper into each region. We assessed the number of searches for several terms including “work stress”, “stressed at work”, “work anxiety” and “work depression” – which we selected based on the highest terms searched nationally. 

We used Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to find where these terms were being searched most frequently on a monthly basis. We generated our final ranking using the most recent population data from ONS for each of these locations and worked out the percentage of searches being made per 100,000 people. This was then used to help us create the final ranking, which we depicted as a table (most-least searches) and in two maps. 


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