The Stressed documentary process began with the How Are You Ireland? app. This used a smartphone to collect health data linked to people's mood, their stress and their quality of life over a four week period. 

The app contained five weekly questionnaires and five quick daily questions. The weekly questionnaires focused on quality of life, stress and nutrition, while the daily questions asked people how they felt, how tired they were, how they were feeling, how well they slept, and how stressed they felt.

Data from 1,500 people was assessed as part of this study. While this number means that the data is not representative of the entire Irish population, it offers us a good snapshot into the people who participated in the research over the four weeks.

Moods and stress

28 percent of respondents said that they had either often or always felt anxious, depressed or irritable in the last seven days. That's an awful lot of stressful emotions, which is a big emotional burden for more than a quarter of all our respondents.

If you include people who said they had sometimes felt anxious, depressed or irritable in the last seven days, that goes up to around two-thirds of the respondents. So this is a strong indication that stressful emotions are a problem.

Those who showed higher levels of stress also showed higher levels of anxiety and fatigue. They also tended to have more physical health issues such obesity and reported sleep disturbance.

While there no differences in stress levels seen between men and women or between any of the counties or provinces, those under 50 tended to be more anxious than those above 50. 

Sleep and stress

People who reported better sleep tended to demonstrate less stress. People who reported achieving better sleep daily, demonstrated a trend towards using social media less than those with poorer sleep.

Food, alcohol and stress

Those with normal body mass index, or BMI, had less stress than those who were overweight or obese. 69.5 percent of people are not meeting their fruit and vegetable intake, but those who did demonstrated good mental health.

96 percent of people don't eat enough fish. We saw an interesting trend that saw people who do eat plenty of fish reporting lower levels of stress.

71.3 percent of people exceed the recommended snack intake. People who did not exceed the recommended snack intake also demonstrated a trend towards being slightly less anxious. 56.6 percent of people exceed their recommended weekly alcohol intake. 

Work and stress

People who reported high satisfaction with their role in life and their ability to carry out their duties at work and at home showed less stress levels. They also demonstrated less anxiety, felt less tired and had a better mood on a daily basis. Being comfortable in your role at work and at home helps keep stress levels low. A trend was seen towards higher stress levels in unemployed people. 

Social media and stress

Social media is used for over an hour a day by over half of our respondents, with younger people demonstrating more use. There was a consistent trend that more social media use was associated with higher reported daily stress, poorer reported daily sleep, and poorer reported daily moods. Those who use social media for greater than two hours a day are highly stressed.

Dr Alison Keogh is a Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. She is a Charted Physiotherapist, with an MSc in Sports and Exercise Medicine and a PhD in Physiotherapy. Her thesis investigated the use of behaviour change theory and techniques by physiotherapists.

Professor Ian Robertson is a clinical psychologist
 and neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin and was the founding director of Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. His books Mind Sculpture, The Mind's Eye and The Winner Effect, have been translated into many languages and he is widely recognised as one of the world's leading researchers in neuropsychology.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.