Stress, that tense feeling often connected to having too much to do, too many bills to pay and not enough time or money, appears to be a common emotion that knows few borders.

About three-fourths of people in Canada, the United States, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom said they experience stress on a daily basis, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.

Those anxious feelings are even more intense during the holidays.

Just over three-fourths of the people in Canada, 76 per cent, said they feel stress in their daily lives frequently or sometimes. Canadians were most likely to name their jobs, 32 per cent, or their finances, 28 per cent, as the most important causes of that stress.

Spaniards, 61 per cent, were not as wound up as those in most other countries polled. And they could all take a lesson from Mexico, where more than half of Mexicans said they rarely or never experience stress in their daily lives.

But that is certainly not the experience for most people in the 10 countries polled - especially women.

When the word "stress" was mentioned to Heidi Zabit of Durham, Conn., recently, it seemed to touch a bundle of nerves.

"My life is just so stressful right now I'm exploding all over the place," said Zabit, a paralegal and single mother of three boys. "Financially, the stresses are putting me under the table. After a full day of work, we finish dinner and do homework. By 9 p.m., I'm fried.

"And it's magnified by the holidays," she said. "They emotionally string us all out, they string our kids out, as far as hopes and expectations."

Germans feel stress more intensely than those in other countries polled. People in the U.S. cite financial pressures as the top worry. About half the people in Britain said they frequently or sometimes felt life was beyond their control, the highest level in the 10 countries surveyed.

In most of those countries, men were more likely to say their lives were never out of control.

"The idea that we French lead the good life is totally utopian," said Pascale Mongay, a counsellor at a private Paris tutoring firm. "We are as stressed as anyone," she said.