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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Work stress levels 'lower' in UK
Stressed business woman
Staff in the Netherlands and Spain were less stressed than Britons
UK workers are among the least stressed in Europe, a survey has suggested.

Just 20% of British workers found their workplace "too stressful" compared with an average of 27% across Europe.

Switzerland and Sweden suffered the highest levels of anxiety in their job (33%), the survey by global recruitment agency Kelly Services found.

The poll of 19,000 people across 12 countries also found that male workers, older staff and those in steady jobs were under the greatest pressure.

"A certain amount of stress is inevitable and can be a good thing when it pushes people beyond their comfort zone to work harder and smarter," said Steve Girdler, marketing director of Kelly Services UK.

Switzerland/Sweden - 33%
Norway - 31%
Germany/France - 28%
Italy - 26%
Russia - 24%
Belgium - 23%
Denmark - 22%
Britain - 20%
Spain - 16%
Netherlands - 16%
Source: Kelly Services

"But high levels of prolonged stress are not good because they impact on productivity and are associated with physical and emotional illness," he warned.

The group also found stress increased significantly with age - rising from 19% in the 15-24 age bracket to 23% for those aged 45 and above.

Shouldering the burden

The report suggested these workers could also be suffering from added stress at home and increased responsibility.

Those working the longest hours found their job the most stressful - 18% for those working 30 hours or less, 34% for those clocking on for 41-50 hours, and 50% for those working longer than 51 hours.

Kelly Services also uncovered a close link between stress and job satisfaction.

For those workers who said they faced too much stress, just 28% were happy in their jobs, while for those with "just the right amount of stress" happiness levels jumped to 65%.

The report said the findings suggest staff enjoy jobs where they face challenges that push them to "learn new skills".

"Workers facing chronic high levels of stress are not performing to their optimum, while their own situation is probably impacting on colleagues, customers or others in the organisation itself," said Mr Girdler.

"The key is to strike the right balance between challenging and stressful work."

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