Panic attacks are more likely to happen in certain workplaces. Image: Shutterstock

Thursday 21st April 2016

Panic stations

Which cities are most prone to workplace panic attacks?

All of a sudden you know something is really, spectacularly, wrong. Your heart starts to palpitate and your head is spinning like a hamster wheel. Your breathing becomes shallow – short stabbing breaths like you’ve run too hard to catch a bus. Worst of all, you’re beginning to lose your sense of reality. You’re there, but you’re not you – you’re watching yourself from outside, wondering whether the you you’re watching is having a nervous breakdown or even heart failure.

Well, it’s neither. It’s a panic attack. And they’re more common than you think. 52% of us will have at least one in our lifetime. Experts estimate that there are 120,000 panic attacks every day in the UK alone.

Bad news for HR: according to a recent survey, one of the major causes of panic attacks is – you guessed it – the workplace.

Crowded offices

According to a new study headed by panic disorder specialist Dr David Sinclair, 35% of panic attack sufferers say their attacks have been triggered by crowded offices.

A recipe for panic. Photo: William Perugini/

46% have had a panic attack on their way to work, and 27% say they get no support from their employer. (A further 9% said they received some support, but not enough.)

One big environmental trigger for panic attacks is apparently poor airflow and ventilation. Dr Stephen Cox, a psychiatrist who has invented a carbon dioxide pollution filter for panic attack sufferers, points out that ‘Carbon dioxide is 100 to 500 percent higher in planes, tubes, lifts, in meetings and in cars.’

So, what can employers do?

Office layout

According to the survey, 35% of participants said they’d like their employer to provide a ‘safe space’ environment for respite from triggers, 26% would like their employer to improve airflow and ventilation, 13% said adjusting the layout of their office could help and 11% advocated minimising loud noises.

A greater awareness of how to deal with sufferers when in the throes of an attack can help too. The NHS suggests helping people to breathe well is a good way of overcoming an episode, whilst charities such as No Panic offer a helpline service.

But we know what you’re after. You want to know where the places in the UK with the highest rates of panic attacks are, right?

Panic hotspots

In third place is Cardiff, where 6.67% of residents suffer at least one panic attack per week. One thing about Cardiff likely to cause anxiety: the seagull population is apparently the second largest in the UK, and growing by three per cent every year. Hold on to your chips, Cardiffians.

In second place is Wolverhampton, where the figure is slightly higher at 6.98%. One thing about Wolverhampton likely to cause anxiety: not sure why exactly, but a few years ago Lonely Planet decided Wolverhampton was the fifth worst city in the world. Worse than San Salvador and Chennai; worse than Luton and Romford. Really? Really?

But the UK’s panic hotter-than-hotspot is Swansea, with a whopping 8.16% of people having an attack every week. One thing about Swansea likely to cause anxiety: we’re not saying that the locals like a fight or anything, but we do have it on good authority that the local McDonald’s has bouncers.

Swansea: over 8% of residents have a panic attack every week. Photo: Shutterstock

About the author

Andrew Baird

Andrew is the CEO of HRville. He is also Employer Brand Director of Blackbridge Communications, Editorial Director of Professionals in Law and an associate of The Smarty Train. Previously, he was the MD of TCS Advertising.