Employers must offer more financial support to staff as stress levels double

Employers are being urged to support workers who have money worries in light of new research that revealed stress levels among employees have doubled in four years.

Up to 42 million adults, from top managers to manual workers, are suffering from finance-related stress, according to Axa’s Money Sickness Syndrome report.

Bills, debts, a high cost of living and concerns over job security were cited as the main stress triggers.

Higher-level managers fared the worst – 21% experience constant stress due to money worries, compared to just 9% of skilled manual workers, the research based on 2,000 people found. It also showed 35% of these managers will take no practical action to fix their financial problems.

Meanwhile, skilled manual workers and junior managers/admin staff are the most likely to turn to drink (20%) to cope with stress, and a further 21% and 19% respectively turned to food.

According to GP and mental health expert Roger Henderson, the number affected has doubled since the money sickness syndrome was first identified in 2006, and symptoms include anxiety, weight gain, depression, sleeplessness and palpitations.

Henderson said: “People at all income levels suffer money sickness syndrome, and the research shows two-thirds of people said they felt their levels of financial stress had worsened in the previous 12 months and almost half believed this would deteriorate further in the next 12 months.”

Eugene Farrell, Axa’s head of psychological health and wellbeing, warned the problem could get worse as the public sector braces itself for cutbacks and said employers should help employees get to grip with their financial problems before they make them too ill to work.

He told Personnel Today: “It would be useful for public sector employers to be mindful of this situation as they are in an ideal situation to provide support for people, such as financial education to help them understand where they are and the financial world in greater depth, financial planning and independent advice. Also [they can] help them with psychological and health aspects, employee support programmes, and counselling to help with those anxieties.”

Farrell added HR departments should be “taking on board” the fact middle managers are the most affected. “They need to support these managers who are supporting others in the organisation,” he said.

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