Britons are stressed and it’s costing the NHS exorbitant sums to deal with, a new report suggests.
According to research by the Cigna and Asia Care Group, nearly three-quarters (72%) of Brits suffer from stress, and stress-related illnesses accounted for more than 68 million GP appointments, 3 million emergency department visits, 9 million outpatient attendances and 5.5 million inpatient admissions.
The cost of all this stress to the NHS is more than £11 billion a year, representing 6.8% of total health expenditure. Furthermore, stress also accounted for a third of primary care expenditure, totalling £1.8 billion and £238 million to the government and the private sector, respectively.
The study, which analysed patient data from nine different countries, including the UK, US and Australia, found that on a global level, stress-related conditions are thought to account for 35% of primary care visits, around 25% of hospital admissions, 19% of emergency department visits and 12% of outpatient attendances.
Dr Peter Mills, medical director at Cigna, said stress was placing a massive financial burden on health systems across the globe. And while stress will always be an issue, greater awareness and early diagnosis can help people to live happier, more productive lives, with reduced physical illness.
“Action is needed to address the causes of stress in the UK, as well as support people to better manage stress and ensure systems are in place to identify and treat stress-related illness,” he added.
Prevention is better than cure
The report also found that managing and treating patients who sought medical help for unexplained physical issues or symptoms and mental health conditions commonly associated with stress is also costly, but disproportionate depending on the healthcare system in place.
For example, hospital-led health systems spend considerably more on stress-related conditions than systems where strong primary care is in place, suggesting preventative, community-based services are effective in reducing the clinical and financial impact of excessive stress.
The new report follows research by Cigna last year that found 86% of British people are reluctant to seek professional help for stress even though they experience the health repercussions associated with it, such as problems sleeping (85%), headaches (75%) and high blood pressure (71%).
No one-size-fits all
These statistics and figures are nothing short of frightening. But we need to take a step back and consider the underlying causes, as stress is usually a symptom of something else, be it emotional, financial or work-related – perhaps even a combination of them all.
Employers have a vital part to play in the management of this crisis. Many employers operate an open culture that encourages people to talk about mental health without fear. However, this may not help with the older generation where taboos remain and these conditions are seen as a weakness. A one-size-fits-all approach will never work so employers need to, in many cases, look to alternative solutions.
Stephen joined Premier Choice in 2006 as a Group Risk consultant and became Head of Group Risk in June 2013. In December 2017, Stephen also took over responsibility for the Protection division within Premier Choice and works to grow this in the same way he has the Group Risk division. Protection is a specialist area and fits well with his experience and expertise in the group risk market.