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East-west divide in researcher wellbeing revealed

Asian researchers are less likely to report work-related stress despite longer hours, global survey finds

A mental wellbeing survey of more than 13,000 researchers from around the world has revealed sharp differences between Asian and English-speaking countries.

Despite working longer hours, researchers in China, Japan, South Korea and India were less likely to report high levels of work-related stress and less likely to seek professional help than their counterparts in the United States, the UK, Australia and Canada.

Researchers in the UK were most likely to report being “frequently overwhelmed” by work.  

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The survey was conducted between October 2019 and July 2020 by the Cactus Foundation, an India-based scholarly communications initiative, so responses may have been influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Respondents came from more than 160 countries and were self-selecting, with 53 per cent working in Asia, 20 per cent in Europe and 11 per cent in North America.

Those in Asia were significantly more likely to report working more than 50 hours a week than colleagues in English-speaking countries, with only around a quarter working fewer than 40 hours a week.

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Despite working fewer hours, researchers from English-speaking countries were more likely to have sought professional help for work-related stress than counterparts in Asia.