Are you in one of the top 10 most stressful careers?

Is working at your job unwittingly sending you to an early grave? We highlight the careers that come with hidden health costs.

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Feeling the strain at work? You’re not alone. 

A study shed light on the UK’s working landscape – going beyond just salaries, and into the impacts of certain careers on our health. 

The research – by‘s business insurance team and personal injury experts at – examined physical safety (workplace injuries and illnesses), emotional wellbeing (stress and burnout caused by the job), as well as financial security (risk of crime for businesses). 

Crunching the numbers has revealed the industries that pose the greatest risk to employee health and well-being, providing valuable insights for those considering a career change, or who are unaware of the toll their job choice may be taking on them.  

Safety first: the low-risk sectors

The data notes three of the lowest-risk industries, though it is hard to determine number one due to the varied risks across industries in different areas. 

Arts, entertainment, and recreation reign supreme for those seeking a physically safe workplace with a low crime risk with a score of 2.65. This industry boasts low workplace illness rates (3,340 per 100,000 workers) and even lower non-fatal injury rates (1,140 per 100,000 workers). 

However, while lower on the stress scale (1,820 per 100,000), this industry still sees a significant number of workers struggling. This suggests a potential trade-off between physical safety and mental well-being.

Professional, scientific, and technical activities present a different risk profile. Though workplace injuries are lower (580), this category suffers the most from reported workplace illnesses (3,650). This could be due to factors like exposure to long hours spent working at desks or zoom fatigue including symptoms such as eye strain and migraines. Mental health concerns also remain significant here, with 2,310 reported cases.

Accommodation and food service activities emerge as a risky sector physically, with a high number of workplace injuries (2,500), this industry likely reflects the physically demanding nature of many jobs. However, its toll emotionally on workers’ health is surprisingly low – at just 1430 per 100,000 workers.

Danger ahead: the high-risk sectors

The study by sheds light on the most stressful UK industries.

The human health and social work industry was found to be the most stressful industry, with a staggering 3,530 individuals per 100,000 workers experiencing work-related stress. This high-stress level comes despite boasting one of the widest salary ranges (£17,000 – £63,000) and encompassing professions like doctors, therapists, and nursing home assistants.

Public defence follows closely behind, holding the title of the second most stressful industry. Here, the average salary range falls between £18,000 and £31,000. 3,260 out of every 100,000 workers reported stress-related illnesses, highlighting the vulnerability of security guards and prison officers to work-induced stress.

Rounding out the top three is the education sector. While the average salary range sits comfortably between £28,000 and £40,000, 2,720 individuals per 100,000 reported work-related stress – almost 3 in every 100.

Top 10 most stressful industries in the UK:

  • Human Health and Social Work
  • Public Defence (Security & Prison Officers) 
  • Education (Teachers)
  • Professional, Scientific & Technical (Solicitors, Barristers)
  • Finance (Accountants, Bankers) 
  • Real Estate (Estate Agents, Property Managers) 
  • Information & Communication (IT Workers, Graphic Designers) 
  • Arts & Entertainment (Art Directors, Makeup Artists)
  • Wholesale & Retail Trade (Sales Assistants, Cashiers)
  • Accommodation & Food Service (Wait Staff, Bartenders)

Work stress and burnout take a toll

The research explores the health risks associated with various occupations, however, it’s crucial to address another significant factor impacting the UK workforce: the rise in long-term illness leading to economic inactivity.

According to ONS data on the subject, 9.2 million people aged between 16 and 64 in the UK are not in work nor looking for a job. The total figure is more than 700,000 higher than before the pandemic. This number has remained persistently high in recent years, contributing to significant workforce shortages.


While this study highlights the most stressful careers in the UK, it serves as a springboard for further discussion on employee wellbeing.  Understanding high-risk sectors allows for targeted interventions.

Employers must prioritise mental health support within these industries.  This could involve implementing stress management programs, offering flexible work arrangements, and fostering open communication channels for employees to voice concerns.

Continuous feedback mechanisms are also crucial. Regular check-ins with employees can help identify individuals struggling with workload or burnout. Open communication paves the way for adjustments and ensures employee well-being remains a top priority.

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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