“Stress is bad for your health, you should do something about it!” says private healthcare firm

How’s your blood pressure? Are you eating well? And getting plenty of sleep? Because I read that modern life is really weighing heavy on the modern Brit’s shoulder:

Almost half of Britons consider themselves ‘stressed’

The research carried out by health insurers Bupa found that of those, 27 per cent said they regularly “feel close to breaking point”.

The study found stress levels were highest among those aged between 45 and 54, with women more likely than men to describe themselves as suffering from such pressures.

Source: Telegraph, 4th November 2013

The study – which also made the Daily Mail on the same day – comes with a genuine health message: be aware of the effect stress can have on your life, and seek help where needed. 

However, the headline statistic – that half the population of the country suffer from stress – is nothing more than scaremongering. For one, it’s unclear what the research methodology was, nor how well defined what counts as ‘stress’ was. Did they ask people ‘do you feel stressed?’, or was the line of questioning more nuanced and effective? How does this compare with other countries, or with Britain 10 years ago? Is this really cause for concern, or run-of-the-mill grumbling? It isn’t made clear.

In fact, even the Mail’s coverage was somewhat more conservative, specifying only the percentage of people who feel ‘at breaking point’. 

Overall, this level of headline scaremongering is merely aimed at creating an impression of an epidemic… an epidemic that private healthcare company Bupa are more than happy to be on hand to help out with, for a fee.

Not content with one PR survey, the Telegraph actually double-down with an even more transparent piece of pseudo-sociological data late in the article: 

A separate poll of 2,000 people found that one in 10 found changing jobs more stressful than getting married or having a baby. Overall, the survey by Kalms herbal stress remedies found that moving house was rated as the activity most likely to induce anxiety, followed by having a baby and getting married.

While the Kalms survey may be more obvious in its intent, it’s no more cynical than Bupa’s data, and no more infuriating for regular trackers of PR nonsense in the press.