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Young, well-educated, female and Scottish? Get ready for more Brexit stress


Women, young people, better educated people, Scots and Londoners found Brexit the most stressful, according to new research.

A recent report by The Physiological Society, titled Stress in Modern Britain, also shows that women reported feeling more stressed than men about adverse events, from terrorist threats to losing a smartphone.

The most stressful events were ranked out of 10 by polling over 2,000 men and women about the situations that they found the most worrying.

While Brexit came further down the list than other common stressful events – such as the death of a spouse, relative or friend (9.43 out of 10 on the stress scale) and separation or divorce (8.47 out of 10) – it had the greatest variety of responses given.

People aged between 18 and 24 were found to score a point higher on the Brexit stress scale than those aged over 55 – not entirely surprising, given that 75% of that age group voted to remain in last summer’s EU referendum (compared to just 44% of people aged between 50-64).  


Anti-Brexit protesters outside Downing Street earlier this month. Theresa May has announced the formal Brexit process will begin on 29 March.

Those living in Scotland and London also said that they found Brexit more stressful than people in Wales and much of the rest of England.

However, the most significant factor influencing how stressed people feel at the imminent prospect of Brexit appears to be education level. Respondents with undergraduate degrees scored one point higher on the stress scale than people who had GCSEs or A-levels.

Read more: Science says these small tricks can help you from worrying

Those educated to higher degree level – for example, a masters or PhD – reported stress a full two points higher than people who hadn’t gone to university.

While women generally scored higher than men on the stress scale, The Physiological Society points out that this could be down to women simply being more ready to admit when they’re struggling.


Young activists in favour of Scottish independence from the UK in Glasgow, September 2015.

“The modern world brings with it stresses we could not have imagined 50 years ago, such as social media and smartphones,” says Dr Lucy Donaldson, chair of The Physiological Society’s policy committee.

“It was striking that for every single event in this study, from money problems to Brexit, women reported greater stress levels than men. This could have a real impact on women’s health.”

Read more: One in five Londoners is too scared to take a lunch break – but why?

Stress can affect our physical wellbeing as well as our mental health, says Dr Donaldson – something we should all be more aware of.

“Your brain, nervous and hormonal systems react to stress and it affects your heart, immune system and gastrointestinal system,” she says.

“When stress is prolonged, these effects on the whole body can result in illnesses such as ulcers or increased risk of heart attack.”

Watch: Londoners react to Brexit

Pro-remain women in Scotland may feel particularly angst-filled in the coming weeks. Scotland voted in favour of the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38%, with all 32 council areas backing Remain last June.

As a result, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked for Scotland to be granted a second independence referendum from the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May formally rejected this request, saying “now is not the time” for Scotland to leave the UK – and has announced that the UK will trigger Article 50, starting the formal Brexit process, on Wednesday 29 March.

This means that Scotland will be forced to leave the EU against the wishes of the majority of its voters.

Images: Getty Images, Rex Features



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