The nation is suffering from Fearcasting, as train delays, traffic nightmares and even running out of toilet paper takes its toll. New research reveals exactly why.

From missing the bus, misplacing glasses or running out of phone battery, these small and unplanned everyday emergencies can cause an undue amount of stress to the unfortunate sufferer. Today, Direct Line has teamed up with psychologists at i2 Media Research at Goldsmiths, University London, to reveal that Fearcasting is to blame for this disproportionate amount of stress.

Fearcasting is the heightened panic experienced whilst an everyday emergency is occurring. It’s a result of the brain forward planning for all eventualities that could befall, no matter how unrealistic, and is to blame for making the moment an everyday emergency strikes, one of such frustration.

Latest findings* from Direct Line reveal over a quarter (26 per cent) of Brits experience at least one everyday emergency daily. This has led to the brand collaborating with Goldsmiths, University London, to investigate why these daily mini crises cause high levels of stress.

To get to the bottom of why, Direct Line also can reveal what it is that is causing the frustration. The top ten everyday emergencies that are stressing out the nation are:

  1. Not being able to sleep (46 per cent)
  2. Losing your keys (37 per cent)
  3. Being stuck in traffic when already late (35 per cent)
  4. Losing an important paper or document (33 per cent)
  5. Nowhere to park (32 per cent)
  6. Printer not working when you need to print something (31 per cent)
  7. Running out of battery on your phone whilst out (31 per cent)
  8. Discovering you are out of toilet roll whilst on the loo (30 per cent)
  9. Dealing with machine operated customer service (26 per cent)
  10. Forgetting your bank card when paying for an item (25 per cent)

The in‐depth social experiment** monitored and recorded how a group of respondents reacted to these top ten everyday emergencies; emotionally and physically. The bespoke research project, consisting of daily diaries, video selfies and live experiments, produced the following five key findings:

  1. Fearcasting – A key factor contributing to the stress caused by everyday emergencies is due to mentally running through possible outcomes, some of which may not even happen
  2. Resource – The more resources you have to solve the problem, the less stressful the everyday emergency (e.g. money, time, people with expertise)
  3. Realisation – The sudden realisation of being out of control of the everyday emergency is a secondary contributing factor towards the overall stress
  4. Extent – The extent of the disruption directly impacts levels of stress (e.g. laddering tights vs. breaking a heel)
  5. Context – The stress baseline level of the individual dramatically affects how they’ll react to the everyday emergency. If they were already experiencing other life dramas, then what may be considered a ‘tiny’ everyday emergency could become the straw that breaks the camel’s back

Jonathan Freeman, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths and Managing Director at i2 Media Research said: “We’ve been researching the affects of stress triggers on people for the last 15 years so were really keen to support Direct Line and investigate how everyday emergencies, however small, can conjure up large feelings of stress.

“Existing literature shows the unforeseen nature and disruption caused by everyday emergencies contribute to this high level of stress; but we weren’t expecting to find that one of the major triggers is the way in which people mentally process the spiraling effects of an everyday emergency. By way of an example, you may be sat in traffic on your way to the train station – the worry about having to pay for a new ticket after missing the train can cause a feeling of hysteria. If you knew that in reality you’d be let on the next train for free then you wouldn’t feel so stressed.”

Brits are most likely to experience everyday emergencies in the morning, with nearly one in five (17 per cent) saying their unluckiest time of the day is between 7am and 8am.

The research also found that women are more susceptible to everyday emergencies than men***. Further to this, the home is where most (61 per cent) are likely to experience an everyday emergency, with a further third (34 per cent) falling short to them when travelling in general (e.g. holiday abroad).

Wendy Pearson, head of marketing at Direct Line Insurance, said: “We have all been there; anxious and feeling unbelievably frustrated during the heat of an everyday emergency. For 30 years Direct Line has been helping fix people’s insurance crises, and now we are going to be developing a range of products and services that can fix everyday emergencies, eliminating the stress of one unnecessary life annoyance.”

To fix these problems, Direct Line has worked with creative masterminds, Makerversity, on the upcoming Direct Line’s Everyday Fix event, to be held in their headquarters at Somerset House on 8th and 9th April. The two‐day event will see the UK’s most forward thinking designers and innovators create products and services that fix everyday emergencies, helping the nation avoid getting themselves into these frustrating situations.

All prototypes created at Direct Line’s Everyday Fix will be judged by a panel of industry leaders, and the public, with the winning idea moving forward to be developed from prototype to product.

Notes to editors

* Opinium Research conducted an online survey from the 6th to 10th March 2015, amongst 2,005 UK adults aged 18+. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

** i2 media research at Goldsmiths, University of London conducted the research from 16th to 23rd March 2015.

***A slightly higher proportion of females compared to males experience one everyday emergency on a daily basis (29% vs. 23%).

For further information, to arrange interviews with spokespeople or attend the Direct Line Everyday Fix, please contact:

Vishal Rana, Unity: 020 7440 9810 or
Robyn Swan, Unity: 020 7440 9819 or

About Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on‐line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 878 5587 or visiting