The cost of living crisis, rising inflation, stagnant wages and burnout are all combining to fuel a surge in stress, anxiety and mental ill health, multiple surveys have concluded.
Analysis by Sky News has concluded that the UK is in the grip of a mental health crisis that is causing workers to drop out of the labour market.
Levels of economic inactivity among the long-term sick jumped by 537,500 between the year to June 2019 and the year to June 2022, it concluded.
Some 454,300 of these could be attributed to mental health conditions, such as depression, stress and anxiety orders, it added. Its findings have echoed similar conclusions by the Office for National Statistics, which has blamed long Covid, long NHS waits and the impact of home working for an increase in long-term ill health and worklessness.
The number of employed people with long-term mental health conditions jumped by 816,400 over the same period, Sky also said.
Money and budgeting worries
The financial crisis is also fuelling growing mental and emotional anxiety over money and budgeting. According to research from HR software company Personio, more two-thirds (69%) of employees are feeling worried or stressed about their ability to pay for essentials if the economy worsens over the coming months.
Mental ill health
A further 22% are concerned about losing their job while a similar percentage (20%) are worried they will need to take on a second job to support themselves.
Equally, according to cybersecurity company NordVPN, the majority of Britons now feel scared to check their bank accounts. More than half of people polled (52.2%) said they were afraid of what they might find in their bank statements, it added.
Yet, despite this growing money anxiety, many businesses are still failing properly to support their employees, Personio also argued.
Although two-fifths (40%) of businesses said they had introduced initiatives to help employees with the rising cost of living, one in four (24%) admitted they were not planning to run any initiatives at all, it said.
While in some businesses a lack of budget was the barrier to supporting employees, HR teams said they were also struggling against a lack of senior support.
More than four out of 10 HR managers (42%) said a lack of budget was the main reason for not actively supporting their employees, but more than a quarter (27%) cited a lack of senior support, Personio added.
Mental ill health remained a particular problem for small businesses, according to a poll of 750 small business owners by software firm GoProposal.
Business owners said the biggest barriers to employees talking about their mental health and stress included the fear of career implications (40%), a heavy workload (38%), the feeling that there is no one to talk to (32%), and long working hours (29%).
When it came to the workload, burnout and mental health of business owners themselves, the survey found more than half (54%) worked long and late hours to keep their business on track and 51% had lost sleep because of stress.
Rising rates or burnout
A further connected factor in this looming mental health crisis is rising rates of burnout and exhaustion.
A white paper from consultancy firm International SOS and Affinity Health at Work has found “shocking” levels of burnout in research among employees in 62 countries.
As many as 40% of workers reported that they were experiencing burnout, 60% were reporting lower than generally expected levels of wellbeing, and employees put in 20% more hours, on average, than they were expected to work per week.
Just implementing training or offering a wellbeing ‘hotline’ was not good enough as a response, International SOS argued. Organisations needed to offer a range of employee wellbeing support and consider global differences in how this was perceived by and delivered to workers.
Occupational psychologist Rachel Lewis, director at Affinity Health at Work, said of the findings: “Organisations need to not only account for a variety of needs but also offer additional support over and above a flexible working pattern.
“They should look for third-party support when it comes to creating these solutions, as the input of external experts can often be vital, helping organisations to take a step-back and properly understand their employees’ needs.
“This support can include training, mental health assessments and short-term counselling, which more than three-quarters of those surveyed found useful in supporting their mental health and wellbeing.
“When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, prevention is key. Investing in programmes to prevent mental ill health is going to provide the biggest return on investment. However, it is important to note that overall flexibility was most highly rated by all employees in comparison to any other type of support,” Lewis added.