One-quarter of workers report high stress levels


Number is up from one in five in 2012, but most say they can cope

More Singaporean workers are reporting high stress levels, even though the vast majority say they are coping well.

One in four workers polled by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) for an annual survey last year said they were highly stressed, up from one in five in 2012.

At the same time, however, 94 per cent said they were able to cope with their stress levels "reasonably well".

The poll involved more than 8,000 Singaporeans aged between 18 and 74. It was the group between 18 and 69 - the "working population" - that saw an increase in stress.

This is the largest proportion of people reporting high stress levels since 2010, when the annual survey was first carried out.

In particular, a quarter of those aged under 50 rated their stress level as high, compared with 14 per cent of those aged between 50 and 69.

Even if one may be coping well, prolonged periods of stress can still pose a health risk, said Ms Anna Chen, an Institute of Mental Health clinical psychologist.

"Stress can be positive in keeping us alert and avoiding danger," she said. "But stress for a prolonged period can be negative."

Being constantly stressed can lead to lower immunity, depression, poor sleep and high blood pressure.

Ironically, while the workplace is a source of stress for many, it can also be the place to provide stress relief.

Dr Shyamala Thilagaratnam, director of HPB's preventive health programmes division, said the workplace can be a "potential channel to empower our workforce to manage their stress".

Last year, the board began a programme to train individuals in workplaces who can help promote mental well-being among their colleagues.

These ambassadors may organise talks on stress management, for instance, or plan activities to promote an active lifestyle.

Called Employees Assistance Champions, the scheme has 122 organisations on board so far.

One company is Pan Asia Logistics, which has about 250 employees in Singapore. It organises activities such as yoga, sports and healthy cooking classes to help employees blow off steam.

Another is Spicers Paper, the local arm of an international paper merchant, which has also conducted talks on stress management and being happy. "It's a strong personal belief of mine," said Spicers Asia managing director Gene-vieve Chua. "The participation rate can be improved... but this is where we remain determined to emphasise the importance of a healthy lifestyle."