Middle aged women two thirds more likely to suffer work stress than male colleagues
The pressure to juggle careers, children and, often, caring for elderly parents is driving soaring levels of workplace stress among middle aged professional women, a leading psychiatrist has warned.
Dr. Judith Mohring said official figures showing a spike in cases of workplace stress among women in their 30s and 40s underlined the pressures on the so-called “do-it-all” generation of women.
It follows official figures showing middle aged women in Britain are almost 70 per cent more likely to suffer work-related stress.
The problem is becoming particularly acute among those in their late 30s and early 40s in which cases have risen by almost a fifth in four years.
Dr Mohring, based at the Priory’s Wellbeing Clinic in central London, said the pressure to maintain “traditional women’s roles” despite a revolution in the workplace was taking its toll.
Recent figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that women aged between 35 and 44 in mainland Britain are 67 per cent more likely to suffer work-related stress than men of the same age.
Cases of work-related stress among women in the age-group stands at 2,090 cases per 100,000 working women, compared with a rate of only 1,250 for men of the same age.
The work stress rate among women has jumped 18 per cent in the last four years for those in their late 30s and early 40s.
Among women between 45 and 55 the rate is even higher, at 2,180 cases per 100,000 working women but has fallen slightly over the last four years, from 2,200 per 100,000.
“In professional terms, women’s place in the world has been transformed over the last 50 years,” said Dr. Mohring.
“We now achieve all that men can.
“Perhaps what we haven’t managed so well is to transfer responsibility for some of the more traditional women’s roles.
“So while we might excel at work, we’ll usually pile the pressure on at home too – and that can lead to major stress.
“Women with children will know all too well the tension between being a hands-on mother and managing a busy job.
“But it’s not just mothers who feel they fail to live up to an imaginary feminine ideal.
“Women have so many arenas in which they can compete: how we look, the quality of our friendships, and, of course, the work we produce.
“Sometimes it can feel that there are just too many ways to fail. And that’s when self-doubt, low self-esteem and self-criticism can come to the fore.”
She added that long working hours and high stress levels also appear to be driving professional women to drink.
“From what I see, stress levels are high everywhere. Everybody working today is being driven harder, and asked to deliver so much more than they were even five years ago, and digital saturation means that work follows us home and often, via smartphones, to our bedside.
"Most people I see are too tired to enjoy life outside of work as a result. In the City, 60-plus hour-weeks are not rare.
“Women often don’t come to the clinic until they are at absolute breaking point or they turn to alcohol as a work ‘anesthetic’.
“But still many senior business managers do not believe stress, anxiety or depression is a serious enough reason for employees to take time off work.”
Best stress beaters
1. Be active
Exercise won’t make stress disappear, but it can help you clear your thoughts and approach your problems calmly
2. Avoid unhealthy habits
Don't rely on alcohol, smoking or caffeine as your ways of coping. In the long term, they’ll just create more problems
3. Help other people
Evidence shows that people who help others, through volunteering for example, become more resilient.
But you can get the same effect by trying to do someone a favour every day, however small
4. Be grateful
To help focus on the positives in your life, try writing down three things at the end of every day which went well
5. Accept what can't change
When you can't change a difficult situation try to concentrate on the things you do have control over