GPs seeing increase in work-related stress, poll finds

Nearly three-quarters of doctors also say patients cite ineffective employer wellbeing strategies when reporting stress

Almost all GPs have seen an increase in the number of patients seeking help for work-related stress since the start of the pandemic, research has found.

The poll of 252 GPs, carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Perkbox, found 92 per cent had seen more people come through their doors looking for medical advice about work-related stress and anxiety, with 68 per cent reporting an increase in the last three months.

The survey also found four out of five (80 per cent) GPs agreed that the worst was yet to come, and that they expected to see demand increase further.

Commenting on the findings, Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester and president of the CIPD, said even pre-pandemic, stress, anxiety and depression were responsible for over half of long-term sickness absences.

“The pandemic has obviously exacerbated this trend,” said Cooper, with people worried about their job and financial security, returning to the workplace while Covid is still a risk, and the prospects of heavier or unmanageable workloads due to workplaces downsizing.

“The fact that GPs are seeing this in their surgeries is worrying, but important in alerting employers and government to recognise and develop strategies to deal with it,” said Cooper. “The mental wellbeing of employees should be a strategic issue for all employers.”

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On average, the GPs polled reported that nearly two in five (39 per cent) patients seeking help for work-related stress were signed off work, which the research said represented a “huge hit to productivity”.

The top three most reported contributing factors to work-related anxiety were financial insecurity (45 per cent), returning to the workplace (43 per cent) and increasing workloads (39 per cent), while nearly three-quarters of GPs (73 per cent) said their patients referenced ineffective employer wellbeing strategies when reporting workplace stress.

When asked what might help, two-fifths of GPs (42 per cent) said the provision of flexible working would be an important pathway to improving wellbeing.

A similar proportion (37 per cent) called for managers to be provided with training on supporting mental health and wellbeing, while 30 per cent said the provision of wellbeing tools and information would help.