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Women and stress: the curse of the ‘do-it-all’ Generation

by on November 11, 2015

Both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail today on the ‘stress epidemic’ (the Telegraph) facing ‘middle-aged’ working women who are ‘cracking up’ (Daily Mail).  Cue multiple pictures of women sat at desks with their heads in their hands and images to seemingly represent the dual pressures of work and childcare.  The figures reported are based on the latest statistics from the HSE (who report of a large number of work related health statistics apart from stress).  According to the news reports this shows that “women aged between 35 and 44 in mainland Britain are 67 per cent more likely to suffer work-related stress than men of the same age”.  The figures also show that women in older age groups are also more likely to have reported a stress related condition than men of the same age.

Unfortunately the news reporting is full of generalizations about what might cause such stress, including spending less time at the pub than men.  I have been unable to download the full HSE report this morning but I doubt this features as a reported cause in their analysis.  Once again the term generation is rather unhelpful here I feel.  Stress is itself an umbrella term with a myriad of symptoms and ways of presenting, even experienced differently by the same person at different times.  To combine this with a generalization about a generation of women serves only to hide the issues that individual women might be facing.  The general discussion in the press also moves the discussion away from the work-place focus of the HSE report.  The headline reasons on the HSE webpage do not even mention gender but focus on the causes at work such as “workload pressures, including tight deadlines and too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support”.

It is shame that we seem to jump to gender and generational stereotypes when faced with this sort of information rather than looking more deeply at the experiences of these women and men in the workplace.

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