Health Overtakes Family as Leading Cause of Stress

    Health has been identified as the number one cause of stress among South Africa’s graduate professionals, according to the second annual Profmed Stress Index.

    The 2015 study, based on data received from survey responses of over 3 400 of the medical scheme’s professional membership base, indicates that health concerns now outstrip those related to family matters by 11% as the number one cause of stress having risen by over 11 percentage points from 2014 to 38% of respondents.

    This is followed by financial issues, which rose by just under 9 percentage points to 25%, and work, cited by only 10% of respondents as their leading stressor.

    Cause of Stress Factors

    Cause of StressAccording to Graham Anderson, Principal Officer and CEO of Profmed, the increased prevalence of health-related stress could be attributed to a number of factors, such as

    • the rising cost of healthcare in South Africa
    • an aging South African professional workforce
    • the increased prevalence of lifestyle disease among the country’s working professionals and
    • low levels of satisfaction with available healthcare services.

    “The diagnosis of a new disease, or complications and symptoms of an existing illness, can be a major source of stress for an individual,” explains Anderson. “In addition, health issues suffered by family or close friends can also be a contributing factor to an individual’s stress levels.”

    Moderate and High Causes of Stress

    The survey further indicated that the majority of respondents, a total of 78%, define their stress levels as being between ‘moderate’ and ‘high’. “While this is an encouraging two percentage point drop from last year’s Stress Index results, this remains an extremely concerning issue and highlights the need for individuals to put effective stress management strategies into place,  to properly manage the challenges of their modern professional lifestyles.”

    Stress is Physical and Emotional

    Most respondents stated that their stress affects them both physically and emotionally, while the majority (75%) of respondents feel they manage stress well. A figure of 38% of the group indicated that they managed their stress through exercise, with significant portions of respondents opting to taking a break or holiday, focus on spirituality or speak to someone.

    Profmed Stress Index 2015 - pt 1 (3)

    “It is encouraging to note that South Africa’s professionals are choosing to make use of techniques such as exercise, which not only treats the effects of stress, but can also play a fundamental role in preventing stress-related illness.” Anderson says exercise is a particularly effective tool for both combatting and preventing stress, as the activity increases natural mood elevating hormones called endorphins, while reducing levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

    Juggling Work, Family and Everything Else Causes Stress

    “In a professional generation that strives to do it all – juggling health, family, work, financial issues and so on – dealing with stress has become the new normal,” says Anderson. “However, many are not aware of the profound effect that stress can have on one’s mental and physical well-being. Stress not only negatively affects one’s quality of life, but can also carry serious consequences such as hypertension, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and depression.”

    How the Survey Was Done

    The second annual Profmed Stress Index Survey has seen an increase in members taking part by a remarkable 23%, in part credited to Profmed’s commitment to donate R5.00 for each member who participates to the Organ Donor Foundation. “This allows us to gain deeper insight into the main causes of stress among professionals, creating the opportunity for us to address stress-related issues and provide practical, useful advice to South Africans on how to best approach the prevention and management of this serious health hazard,” he concludes.

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