Stress keeps four in ten awake at night

Last updated at 09:17 06 January 2005

Four out of 10 Britons are spending sleepless nights worrying about their work or home life, a survey shows.

Increased pressure in the workplace and the home are causing growing numbers of adults to suffer anxiety and have problems sleeping, according to the PruHealth Index.

And for 12% of Britons - equivalent to 5.6 million people - sleepless and stress-filled nights were a regular occurrence.

Higher rates among women

The figures were revealed in the PruHealth report, which looked at a variety of health-related topics, including diet, smoking and stress.

The survey of more than 2,000 people found that frequent worrying was twice as common in women as men - 16% compared to 8%.

Younger people were also more commonly afflicted, with 13% of 16-24-year-olds worrying frequently compared to 7% of those aged over 65.

Prof Simon Capewell from the University of Liverpool, who analysed the findings, said: "These data are consistent with previous surveys showing surprisingly high levels of anxiety and depression in the general population.

"Women have higher levels than men and present more frequently to their GPs.

"Some men try and deny or conceal it."

Only 14% of workers said they believed their employer took a lot of interest in their health, while 26% described their level of interest as "reasonable".

Looking at smoking, the survey found that 27% of adults smoked, with one in three describing themselves as heavy smokers.

Half of heavy smokers - around 2.4 million people - said they would try to quit in the next year, along with a further four million occasional or social smokers.

Diet and fitness

There was also a mixed result on diet. Half of people who said they ate plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables also confessed to undoing the good work with ready meals, fizzy drinks, sweets and biscuits.

Only 42% of those questioned said they tried to exercise several times a week, while 43% said they did no exercise at all or just once or twice a month.

Prof Capewell said: "Exercise halves the chances of cardiovascular disease, reduces future risks of osteoporosis and improves mental well-being.

"This need not necessarily be a marathon or competitive sports.

"For many people, simply walking to school or work, or cycling instead of driving would suffice."

He added: "The UK has one of the highest rates of disease in Europe, particularly heart disease, stroke and the major cancers.

"These diseases are preventable through healthier lifestyles and healthier environments.

"The recent Government Public Health White Paper has now prioritised prevention, so information on trends in people's health behaviour becomes increasingly valuable."

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