Legacy of 'recession depression' sends stress rates soaring

Article date: 1 February 2010

  • 61% think long term sickness rate is a business concern
  • Almost one in four (23%) think stress from economic woes is to blame

We may officially be out of recession but a new 360 degree study of UK businesses and their employees suggests business owners and workers alike are still losing sleep worrying about their financial wellbeing. Almost one in four businesses (23%) claim recent economically difficult times have taken a lasting toll on employee stress levels and have led to an inevitable rise in long term absence rates.

The new “early intervention prevention” group risk survey commissioned by Aviva UK Health reports that  nearly two thirds (61%) of employers feel managing long-term absence is an issue for their business with one in six (16%) stating that long term sickness can have a devastating effect on team morale. A further 13% claim it causes them a major staffing headache. Worryingly, only 6% of staff feel that their company works hard to get staff back into the workplace when colleagues go on sick leave for two weeks or more.     

Dr Doug Wright, principal clinical consultant from Aviva UK Health comments: “At Aviva we understand that work can be stressful from time to time. We want to demonstrate the importance of recognising the early warning signs of stress and help both businesses and employees to manage this condition.

"The results of our new 'intervention prevention' group risk research illustrate just how important this is. Psychological issues such as stress consistently rank top among the causes of long term absence according to claims data from our group risk team - ahead of musculoskeletal disorders and life threatening conditions such as cancer.

“Stress is extremely hard to tackle as people often mask the symptoms until it’s too late. Individuals can be affected by all manner of problems from personal factors to pressure of work and external issues including economic woes.

"However, the good news is that early identification and treatment of stress-related conditions through group income protection and employee assistance programmes is possible and has extremely positive results – helping to safeguard the health of employees and minimising time lost to the business.”

Responses from employers questioned in the Aviva group risk study suggest a growing awareness of the benefits of tackling workplace stress head on. For example, when asked when and if they would step in to help an employee who they thought might go off sick, only 14% of employers felt it was not their position to pry. 

By contrast 35% said they would take an employee aside to discuss the issue and 28% would advise the employee to see a counsellor or GP for extra support. On a broader level, 40% of those who recorded low absence rates claimed this was due to their efforts to manage stress.

Steve Bridger, head of group risk, Aviva UK Health concludes: “It’s encouraging to see employers taking an increasingly proactive approach to tackling workplace stress. Small steps such as giving staff access to a confidential counselling service or implementing a group income protection (GIP) policy can have a hugely positive impact on absence rates. 

"And for those who already have a GIP policy in place, insurers such as Aviva can often start helping employees before the deferred period has finished helping reduce the time off work. So, the sooner you inform your insurer the sooner the provider can step in to support an employee’s safe return to work.”


For further information contact:
Amber Chable, PR and Communications Manager, Aviva UK Health
Telephone: 023 80359 383     
E-mail: amber.chable@aviva.co.uk

Notes to editors:

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Lightspeed Research. Total sample size was 500 employers and 1,000 employees. Fieldwork was undertaken in January 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted.

About Aviva’s Group Risk
Aviva offers some of the most competitive Group Income Protection and Group Life products in the market, covering over two million customers. 

Aviva’s group income protection focuses on minimising staff absence and getting employees back to work promptly through innovative use of vocational rehabilitation techniques available through its occupational health and specialist healthcare teams, as well as external specialist rehabilitation services.

It also provides invaluable financial support for employers in the event of staff absence helping to ensure business continuity. Aviva also offers Income Protection Solutions for individual customers. 

The top conditions for Income Protection claims paid in December 2009 rank as follows:

  • Psychiatric 27%
  • Orthopaedic 23%
  • Neurological 15%
  • Rheumatological 10%
  • Cardiovascular 6%
  • Cancer 6%

For further information about Aviva’s Group Risk products visit:

About Aviva
Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. 

In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers. Aviva also provides roadside assistance through the RAC. Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.

Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses. Aviva's life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 12% and a top three position in its key markets of savings, protection, and annuities. 

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