Money worries, long hours at work and family pressures are driving up stress levels across the country, a report says today.

Half the population say they feel more stressed now than five years ago and more than 10 per cent say they have felt suicidal, twice the level in 2003.

The findings, from a survey commissioned by the Samaritans, confirm Britain as one of the most stressed nations in Europe.

Research published last month showed one in five Britons felt their life was out of control, the highest proportion in the nine industrialised nations studied.

The Samaritans survey of 2,000 people, conducted over the internet last month, found pressure had increased most on the young, with 70 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds saying they felt more stressed than five years ago. Sixteen per cent had contemplated taking their own life, and almost a third said they had no one to turn to, the highest proportion for any age group.

The survey, Stressed Out, was released to mark Stress Down Day today, organised by the charity to highlight stress in the workplace.

The director of Samaritans service support, Joe Ferns, said: "The results of the survey are worrying - not only because we're getting more stressed but because it seems we're getting worse at dealing with that stress."

Mr Ferns said people sometimes reacted to stress in inappropriate ways, by drinking or going shopping, which added to the problem. "Feeling stressed can be a vicious circle. Sometimes, the more people feel stressed, the more they do things which put them under greater pressure."

Women suffered more than men with over half saying they felt stressed more than once a month.

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