Women over 25 years old are significantly more likely to face workplace stress than men. iStock

From the age of 25 upwards, women feel more stress than men at work, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive.

The gender difference in stress levels is caused by additional pressures women face in terms of family responsibilities, body image and sexism in the workplace, psychiatrists say.

The highest disparity in stress levels was for women aged 35-44, with almost 50% more women experiencing stress at work than men, the Health and Safety Executive found in a survey of 38,000 households in the UK.

Doing more for less

Several studies have shown that stereotype threat – or being judged by, for example, your gender or ethnicity instead of your performance – is a major contributor to women's stress in the workplace. The threat of being misjudged or dismissed due to sexist assumptions has been shown to affect women's performance, goals, behaviour and expectations.

Organisations and managers have also been shown to boost their employees' productivity if they make an effort to reduce stereotype threats in organisations.

Judith Mohring, a psychiatrist at Priory's Wellbeing Centre in London, says that female managers often reported a range of causes of stress related to their gender in the workplace.

"Women are also unhappy about lower pay than men, job insecurity and lack of potential for career progression," Mohring said in a statement. There is still a gender pay gap in the vast majority of industries. In 2016 it stands at about 18%, according to government figures.

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Additional time pressures that women may have in caring roles may make them feel that they lose opportunities for career advancement.

As well as often taking up the majority of parental responsibilities, women are more likely to have unpaid caring roles for elderly or disabled relatives than men.

First in line for cuts

Women – particularly black and minority ethnic women – are hit particularly hard by austerity, research shows. Cuts in the public sector have led to more women of colour being made redundant than white women, or men.

"When push comes to shove, in a restructure women often feel that not having had the time to network with senior – often male – bosses puts them at disproportionate risk," Mohring said.

"Endemic uncertainty is built into many workplaces, and women often bear the brunt of that. In truth, many of these changes in organisations actually achieve very little and raise stress rather than productivity – which in itself is counter-productive."

The Health and Safety Executive stated in its report: "The occupations and industries reporting the highest rates of work-related stress remain consistently in the health and public sectors of the economy. The reasons cited as causes of work-related stress are also workload, lack of managerial support and organisational change."