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What becomes of the broken hearted?

14th February 2014

Where do broken hearts go? Frequently not to work, according to research released today (14 February) by benenden health, which lifts the lid on the impact of heartbreak on Britain’s workforce.

Almost one in five adults (17%) have taken time off work because of heartbreak, while 53% admit a relationship breakdown has had a negative effect on their work for a week and a further 7% said they didn’t perform well at work for six months or more.

Across Britain, of those who stayed at home to lick their wounds, 30% spent a full five days mourning the end of their relationships before venturing back into the office, while a quarter managed to pull themselves together in a couple of days.

The study, by mutual healthcare provider benenden health, surveyed more than 2,000 adults to discover how the stress of a relationship break-up affects our lives and work, and it found the concept of southern softies and northern tough nuts is turned on its head when it comes to handling heartbreak.

While just 24% of Londoners and 14% of Brummies who’d taken time off took five days to feel better, 56% of Geordies felt the need for a full week to recover, closely followed by 45% of Glaswegians and 35% of Mancunians.

And it seems that people in the far west and east of the country also find coping with heartbreak more stressful than most. Of those that took time off, in Cardiff 47% confessed to spending a week at home, while 66% of people living in Norwich felt the need to take five days off work before they were emotionally ready to return to work.

The results also revealed that rather than tell their employer they were heartbroken, most took the easy option and called in sick (56%) with just 32% feeling they could tell the truth. London reflected the national average with 51% calling in sick. However, 82% of people in Cardiff blamed their absence on sickness rather than heartbreak, 72% in Glasgow and 71% in Liverpool.

Dr Sam Farrington at benenden health’s counselling service said: “The results reveal that there can be a stigma around admitting why you need time off, but heartbreak is emotionally overwhelming and can be a traumatic experience leading to stress, anxiety and depression, which take time to recover from. Our counselling service is available 24-7 to benenden health members, with trained counsellors on hand to talk through relationship issues, money worries, work-related problems or bereavement.”

When it comes to feeling better, the survey found that talking is definitely the preferred way to ease the pain with a total of 37% of respondents saying they turned to friends to help them through a crisis. Not surprisingly, more women favoured this option with 43% talking over their heartbreak with a friend compared to 28% of men who were more likely to turn to drink (38%).

“However,” said Dr Sam Farrington said, “talking to an expert can help get you feeling back to your normal self faster than relying on friends. As trained and impartial professionals, counsellors will use a range of difference approaches to help explore emotional and stressful feelings and work on making positive changes.”

Dr Robert Gerber, a consultant cardiologist working with benenden health, said the heartbreak of a relationship breakdown can be manifested in physical symptoms for some: “Many people are surprised to know there is such a thing as ‘broken heart syndrome’ or Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy to give it its correct name. This is usually brought on by a traumatic incident such as bereavement or the breakdown of a relationship, which sees the brain release chemicals that can temporarily weaken the heart tissue causing pangs of physical pain.

“The good news is that the effects are usually temporary and sufferers make a full recovery,” adds Dr Gerber.”

Further stats from the benenden health Broken Hearts survey:

 

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