A nation of worriers

Main image by Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash

As International Stress Awareness Month draws to a close, a survey has revealed that Kiwis spend more than a week out of every year worrying.

Rehabilitation supplier, Active+, surveyed 835 New Zealanders to find out what they worry about on a daily basis. The findings showed that 70% of Kiwis spend at least half an hour per day worrying, with nearly 39% topping more than two hours. Over the course of the year, that means that most people are losing 7.5 days to stress and worry.

A staggering 76% identified anxiety as the number one health issue bothering them, followed by excess weight (41.49%), depression (39.89%), fatigue (38.83%), headaches (34.57%), muscular/joint pain (32.45%) and backache (30%).

“It comes as no surprise that anxiety is at the top of the list,” explains Dr. Kris Fernando,neuropsychologist and chief of clinical services at Active+. “It is one of the most common officially classified mental illness. And those stats only represent people whose anxiety gets so bad they seek medical treatment. Google searches for anxiety are up 150% the past eight years. 

“That could be because people are becoming more comfortable with discussing their mental health. However, it is likely also because of the faster paced lives we are leading. There is increasing pressure both at work and home, and the reliance on digital devices and social media isn’t useful either. Our brains rarely get an opportunity to switch off.”

Along with health issues, Kiwis were asked about their non-health worries. At the top of the list with 75.42% was finances, followed by getting everything done (49.16%), work (41.34%), relationships (39.66%), their appearance (34.08%) and eating too much (32.96%).

“It’s normal to be anxious and to worry from time to time. It’s part of a completely natural set of emotions, so we would never want to talk about eliminating it entirely,” says Fernando. “It’s how you manage it that is important.”

Managing it appears to be something Kiwis do well as we are generally proactive when it comes to dealing with stress. Our top two tactics to destress are spending time with friends/family (58.10%) as well as exercising (53.63%), followed by hobbies (26.26%), talking to a professional (21.23%), meditation (12.29%) and yoga (8.38%).

Whilst the best approach will vary for each of us, many people benefit from exercising, meditating or simply enjoying a relaxing daily ritual such as a hot bath, reading a book or having a quiet cup of tea. Eating a wholesome, balanced diet also helps.

“However, if you feel like your anxiety is overwhelming or you’re experiencing panic attacks, then you should speak to a professional, who can advise you on the best steps to take” adds Fernando.

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