Stress-related illnesses are estimated to cost the NHS more than £11bn a year, representing 6.8% of total health expenditure, according to a report by Cigna and Asia Care Group.
The research reveals stress-related illnesses were behind three million emergency department visits, nine million outpatient attendances and 5.5 million inpatient admissions.
Stress also accounted for a third of primary care expenditure (33%) at a cost of £1.8bn and £238m to the government and the private sector, respectively.
On a global level, around 25% of hospital admissions, 19% of emergency department attendances, 35% of primary care visits and 12% of outpatient attendances are likely to be the result of conditions driven by stress.
Peter Mills, Cigna’s medical director, said although stress will always exist, better awareness and early diagnosis can help people to live happier, more productive lives and reduce physical illness.
“Action is needed to address the causes of stress in the UK, as well as support people to better manage stress and ensure systems are in place to identify and treat stress-related illness,” he added.
The research also found 72% of Brits suffer from stress.
“Luckily there are now a number of health and wellbeing strategies that employers can adopt to create healthier, happier workplaces and moreover, a more caring and open culture, where people feel they can discuss stress-related issues,” said Mills.
The report suggests hospital-led health systems spend considerably more on stress-related conditions than systems in which strong primary care is in place.
It said this emphasises the need to consider how preventative, community-based services could be better used to manage-down the clinical and financial risks posed by excessive stress.
“Despite experiencing signs of mental illness caused by chronic stress, many people do not seek medical help straightaway, waiting until they experience physical symptoms. This is likely because in many countries, including the UK, mental health is still taboo and seeking help for physical symptoms has more cultural acceptability,” said Mills.