Almost one-third of Britons have experienced suicidal thoughts while one-sixth reported self-harm due to stress, according to the largest and most comprehensive stress survey in the UK.

Of the 4,619 people surveyed, 74 percent of adults reported feelings of high stress in the past year, and that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Women have a higher prevalence of stress compared to men while those aged 18 to 24 years are more stressed than people aged 65 years and above.

Nearly one-third of adults said they have experienced feelings of suicide while 16 percent of the population reported incidents of self-harm as a result of stress.

"Millions of us around the UK are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging our health. Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn't being taken as seriously as physical health concerns," said Isabella Goldie, director of Mental Health Foundation.

The survey showed that women emerged to be the most affected demographic, as well as young adults belonging to the millennial generation.

Scotland's Rate On Suicidal Thoughts And Self-Harm

Young adults aged 18 to 34 years were recruited to participate in the Scottish Wellbeing Study, which aimed to determine the prevalence of suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm.

Previous data have shown that suicide rates are higher in Scotland than England, although the incidences of self-harm among adolescents are similar in both areas.

Of the 3,508 young adults interviewed from March to December 2013, 11.3 percent and 16.2 percent reported a lifetime history of suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harm.

"Psychiatrists, psychologists and others involved in the care of young people should be vigilant," the authors reported, adding that health care professionals should routinely inquire about the history of self-harm in this age group.

The study was published May 9 in the journal BJPsych Open.

Effects Of Chronic Stress On Health

Goldie added that stress contributes to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. People with high levels of stress are at risk of heart diseases, and problems with digestion, immune system, and insomnia.

Chronic stress can also lead to memory impairment, a risk of irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach ulcers. Others respond by overeating, drinking, drug abuse, and smoking.

The Mental Health Foundation survey identified fatal and long-term health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems as primary stressors. Socio-economic triggers, specifically poor work-life balance and debts, rank consecutively as major stressors.

To address stress as a public health crisis, the civil service industry and NHS are adopting new standards on mental health in the workplace. It includes implementation of mental health plans, awareness, and monitoring health and wellbeing.

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