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Catch up with the latest press releases from LV=

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Secret stress: half of sufferers lie about condition

Press release: 16/10/2015

  • A quarter (24%) of people in the UK have taken time off work due to stress in the last five years
  • More than half (54%) of workers hid the reason they were off from colleagues
  • Sufferers in the public sector worry that their colleagues think they are “faking it”
  • Sufferers in the private sector worry that it may affect their job security

One in four people (24%) have taken time off work due to stress - an average of 16 days per person in the last five years1 - but many people are hiding it and even returning to work earlier than they should.

According to protection specialist LV=, 13.4million Brits have taken time off due to workplace stress in the last five years, with more than half (56%) blaming unrealistic deadlines or workload. Other triggers include long working hours (53%) or lack of support and training (44%).

Despite many workers suffering from stress, the problem remains taboo, with more than half (54%) of those taking time off for stress telling their colleagues they were suffering from another illness. Of those who hid the reason they were off work, two in five (38%) say they were scared to tell their colleagues about the problem for fear of being labelled ‘weak’ and a further quarter (25%) were too embarrassed to explain the real reason, meaning that many suffer in silence.

The research reveals that one in seven (16%) continued working after being diagnosed with stress and most people (70%) went back to work early after suffering with workplace stress, often because they feel guilty (38%) or worry about what their colleagues might think (35%).

It is clear from the findings that the concerns between public and private sector workers differ, with those in the public sector are more likely to worry that their colleagues might think they are ‘faking it’ (51%). The biggest fear amongst those in the private sector was that being off with stress could affect their job security (46%). More workers in the public sector go back to work early because of what colleagues might think, whilst those in the private sector are more likely to lie about why they were taking time off (63%).

Mental health issues have become one of the main causes of long-term sick leave in the UK which can impact on someone’s financial health. More than two in five (43%) people said they would use their savings if they were unable to work, while a quarter (27%) of people said they would have to rely on government benefits if they became ill. Many would rely on a combination of solutions, such as relying on a partner’s income and claiming government benefits, but one in five people (21%) said they wouldn’t know what to do. Given that Statutory Sick Pay is just £88.45 a week4, someone earning the average UK wage would see their income drop by 83%5 if they had only that to fall back on.

Myles Rix, Managing Director of Protection at LV= said: “Many assume that mental illness will not affect them. However it is clear that stress and related mental health issues affect nearly a quarter of the UK’s working population, and millions of people are putting their health at risk by returning to work too early, often for financial reasons. A contingency plan such as income protection offers workers with severe mental health problems with a financial safety net which means they can focus on recovering without worrying about whether they can make ends meet.

“Income protection policies can provide more than just financial benefits. We work closely with mental health specialists to help our customers engage with approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy to help them recover and return to work.”

1. According to research commissioned by LV= and carried out by Opinium Research, the average person took 16 days off for stress over the last five years.

2011 – 3.13 days

2012 – 2.83 days

2013 – 3.04 days

2014 – 3.40 days

2015 – 3.47 days

2. Research found that 24% of people (over 18) have taken time off due to stress in the last five years. The UK population over the age of 18, according to ONS UK Population Pyramid is 55.9 million. 24% of 55.9 million is 13.4 million.

3. In the private sector, only 17% of people have continued to work following a diagnosis of stress.

4. Statutory Sick Pay is £88.45 a week, and even this isn’t available to everyone. Further information is available here.

5. According to ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2014 Provisional Results (available here), the median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees were £518. The percentage decrease from £518 to £88.45 is 83%.


Opinium Research carried out the Workplace Stress research on behalf of LV= from 15th-18th September 2015. The total sample size was 2,005 British adults over 18 years old and it was conducted online. Results are weighted to a nationally representative criteria.

For further information please contact:

Addy Frederick 020 8256 6909 / 07500 171 810

Beth Hardwick 020 3657 9778 / 07917 196 356

About LV=

LV= employs 6000 people and serves over 5.7 million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and UNISON.

Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF.