Single parents and unemployed people suffer more frequently from chronic stress than managers or civil servants, a new study shows.
"I´d rather fight deadlines in the office," Sarah König, a 30-year-old unemployed single mum from Berlin told The Local. "When you return home from a stressful day at work you´re often exhausted. But I still miss this sort of stress."
König spends her days writing job applications, frequently without a response. "I´d rather experience that I was important for a team, for a task, for society. I don't want the country to pay my way. I want to feel needed and also pay taxes myself," she added.
Flavia Costa, 33, from Milan, has been unemployed for 18 months, with sporadic cooperations.
“It's of course everyday life: every time that I go shopping for food, that I pay the rent, the bills, that I check my bank account, that I go out, I have this internal sense of bleeding. While I'm running out of my savings, although I'm covered in many ways, it's frustrating to see it.”
A study last week showed that Costa and König are not alone in feeling higher stress levels while out of work than when tackling the strains of daily employment.
The study, completed on behalf of health insurance company DAK, evaluated stress levels of 3000 people across the country aged between 25 and 40. Participants were asked how often they had negative experiences and situations in their daily lives. The scale ranged from 0 (no stress) to 48 (maximum stress).
Results showed that unemployed people were the second most stressed group in the country, averaging 21.4 points on the scale, after single mothers at 24.6 points. Both groups registered way above the average stress level of 19.2 points.
Unemployed people were shown to feel higher levels of stress despite having fewer tasks to accomplish on a daily basis.
One reason is that they do not have the luxury of separating their private problems from their professional lives.
“Many professionals find their private lives more stressful and therefore feel they can relax at work,” psychologist Lutz Hertel told Spiegel last week.
Hertel said that more significantly, it is not that the sheer amount of work a person has, but the ability to exercise control over their daily lives that plays a key role in their stress levels.
Those who are out of work have very limited control over their lives, the DAK report said.
This may also explain why semiskilled or unskilled workers, with an average of 20.2 points, came well ahead of highly qualified employees or those in managerial positions, who averaged just 17.7 points on the scale of stress.
Flavia who lives in Bremen said the stress she is experiencing is also because her self-confidence has suffered since being unemployed. “The more I don't work, the less I'm self-confident; every time that I read a job description or I take part in an interview, I lose perception of what I'm really able to do, and I question myself "will I be good enough?".
She said she feels like she is in a catch-22 situation, “The more I don't work, the less confident I am, the less confident I am, the chances are less to nail a job.”
Depression due to severe stress and anxiety disorders has risen considerably in Germany over the last few years, the report said. The numbers of sick days taken off for this reason has soared by 178 percent over the past 13 years.