FAMILY THE LEADING CAUSE OF STRESS FOR SA’S PROFESSIONALS

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South Africa’s graduate professionals are more stressed by their families than any other reason, including financial commitments or their occupation. This is according to a recent survey of nearly 3 000 of Profmed’s graduate professional members on the levels of stress facing this demographic.

According to Graham Anderson, Principal Officer and CEO of Profmed, the medical scheme that caters exclusively for the graduate professional market, the Profmed Stress Index shows that 40% of respondents ranked family as the leading cause of stress, with 27% citing Health, 17% Work and only 16% citing Financial.

“There are myriad factors that may be attributed to this result including the fact that some professions such as the medical sector demand long hours that could cause friction for other family members. Graduate professionals also tend to demand a higher salary as a result of their skills, which are often in short supply, which supports why Finances is the least cause of stress amongst this market. It is however positive to note that these people appear happy with their chosen occupation, particularly given the scarcity of skills we have in South Africa in the graduate professional market.” 

When questioned about the effects of stress, 60% of respondents said it had both a physical and emotional effect on them. “It’s important for working professionals to be aware that stress takes a toll on the body, as well as the mind – which can be just as harmful to their overall wellbeing,” explains Anderson.

When asked to evaluate their stress levels on a scale of 1 to 5, the majority of respondents do appear to have relatively high stress levels. Only 20% chose 1 or 2, indicating a low level of stress. 66% said they were moderately to highly stressed, whilst 14% said they were extremely stressed.

A further finding from the survey showed that 38% of professionals use exercise to cope with any stress they may have, with 20% saying a holiday is the preferred method of dealing with stress. 17% said they would speak to someone about their stress and only 8% said they would use medication.

“It is very positive that professionals would first turn to exercise as a way to relieve their stress levels. Many studies have shown that regular exercise reduces stress hormone levels such as adrenaline and cortisol, whilst increasing the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood elevators.”

It is also encouraging that 73% of respondents believe they manage their stress levels well. “Effective management of stress is extremely important as high stress levels can lead to a number of health related issues such as heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, migraines, anxiety and depression.”

Anderson says an interesting result from the survey is that relatively few professionals have taken time off work in the last 6 months due to stress, with only 8% citing this as a cause.

“There are some very positive results in the Index, particularly the fact that graduate professionals feel they are well equipped to manage their stress and appear to do so through positive methods, such as exercise, which has consequent health and emotional benefits,” concludes Anderson.

Further information on the respondents:

  • 14% of respondents were between the ages of 21 – 29, 19% between 30 – 39, 14% between 40 – 49, 21% between 50 – 59 and 34% were over the age of 60    
  • 57% of respondents were male
  • 40% of respondents were in the Medical field, 14% Engineering, 11% Legal, 6% Accounting, 6% Science and 24% cited Other. 

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