More than four out of ten (44 per cent) adults in the UK are currently going through a period of stress, according to new research from Bupa.

The findings – which could concern companies trying to improve employee absence management – suggest that nearly three in ten (28 per cent) people feeling stressed have been struggling with the problem for more than a year.

Over a quarter (27 per cent) admitted they regularly feel close to breaking point.

Bupa found that day-to-day working is among the leading reasons for stress, cited by 18 per cent of respondents.

Work was second only to money worries (20 per cent) as a cause of stress, while family life (eight per cent) and living with long-term illness (seven per cent) were also listed.

Looking at different age groups, the study found that 45 to 54-year-olds (50 per cent) are the most likely to experience this problem, while the over-55s (38 per cent) are the least likely.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of women said they consider themselves stressed, compared to 39 per cent of men.

Martin Baggaley, medical director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said these findings suggest stress is "extremely common" in the UK.

He added: "While low-level and irregular bouts of stress can be beneficial and manageable, it's concerning to see that so many people are experiencing sustained and relentless stress. 

"If left unchecked for a prolonged period of time, stress can cause much more serious, long-term mental and physical illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and be a contributing factor in health problems such as heart disease and even obesity."

Of the survey respondents who said they were currently feeling stressed, more than six out of ten (61 per cent) would only seek help when they became unable to cope with daily life.

Bupa called this a "dangerously high" trigger point.

A recent study commissioned by insurance provider Friends Life found that almost five million workers across Britain called in sick because of stress in the past year.