The stress test. What is the most dangerous form of stress? July 18, 2016 News You may be familiar with the statistics. But last year, nearly half a million people took 9.9 million days off sick because they were stressed, according to the Health and Safety Executive. This is up by 25 per cent since 2014. The most damaging source of stress, however, is perhaps surprising. It’s not the stress caused by particularly difficult incidents, ‘the adrenaline-rush pressure’ we tend to think of when talking about stress. Rather, it’s the ongoing, below-the-radar issues of our existence; the things which make our life seem like one constant problem. ‘When we talk about stress, we tend to think that it’s the fight or flight response that makes people ill,’ says Professor Stephen Bloom, Head of the division for diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial College, London. ‘But the killer is when your life is a constant problem, you are living with your mother-in-law who you hate, you’re doing a job you don’t enjoy. ‘You try to fight it but eventually you become resigned to it,’ he says. ‘You become anxious and depressed and your body gives up — your immune system is impaired, you develop a greater tendency to blood clots and your wound healing is impaired. It’s a kind of biological death wish.’ As the Professor reminds us, the most dangerous stress is often the unnoticed sort; when life is endlessly difficult we can switch off to our hopes, give up, become resigned to it, separate from our feelings. ‘What can I do?’ we say. ‘That’s life.’ And this is when we – our minds and bodies – most need help.