Mental health concerns spike among half of UK employees

Employment & Skills | Surveys

stress

More than half (51%) of employees experienced an increase in worries about their mental health due to the pandemic, according to new findings from Close Brothers.

While 41% had experienced a rise by May 2020, the additional months of lockdown restrictions have seen this catapulted upwards to more than half. This represents a percentage increase of 24% over the time period.

The new report, ‘Expecting the unexpected: a spotlight on preparing for a crisis’, highlights the extent to which the past 12 months have changed the financial plans of employees across the UK. The findings confirm not just that the mental health of employees has been severely impacted by the pandemic, its impact has significantly increased as a result of the year of numerous lockdowns. Over the past 12 months, the percentage of 18-34 year olds experiencing mental health worries has risen to 63% and among those 55+ it has rocketed by more than a third to 37%.

Increased mental health worries due to the pandemic
  May 2020 Feb 2021 12 months % increase
Overall 41% 51% 24%
Men 36% 45% 25%
Women 46% 56% 22%
18-34 y/o 56% 63% 13%
35-54 y/o 42% 52% 24%
55+y/o 27% 37% 37%

Worries about financial and physical health have also been hit by a year of lockdown. Around two in five (39%) employees have experienced an increase in worries about their financial health. Female employees (44%) have been significantly more impacted than their male colleagues (34%), while it’s those aged 18-34 that are the age demographic which has felt it hardest, with more than half of them (51%) experiencing greater money worries. Worries about physical health have been a significant issue too, but the number experiencing this (46%) has remained steady since the start of the pandemic. Digging into the data we find that among male employees and 18-34 year olds, these worries have in fact decreased slightly since May 2020.

Mental health and finances worries are often co-dependent, with money worries being a significant cause for stress and anxiety.

One of the positive outcomes of the last year is that many of those impacted are taking steps to build back with greater resilience on all fronts. More than half (57%) of employees either have made or plan to make changes to their financial preparedness – notably almost three quarters (73%) of 18-34 year olds and around two thirds (65%) of 35-44 year olds. This appears to already be paying dividends when it comes to financial confidence. Around a third (30%) of UK employees are now more confident in their ability to weather a fresh financial storm compared to when the pandemic hit, rising to 36% among those 18-34 years old.

Looking at health holistically, nearly two thirds of employees (61%) have either already started or are planning to exercise more and more than half (55%) are planning to eat a healthier diet and other activities to improve overall wellbeing and mental health.

Jeanette Makings, Head of Financial Education at Close Brothers said:  “Understandably, the pandemic has had a direct impact on employee wellbeing and specifically on their mental and financial health. Tackling this, and providing the support needed, even as the majority of employees continue to work remotely, is an area of growing importance for organisations.

“Mental wellbeing has always been impacted by poor financial wellbeing but over the last 12 months this has touched more people and some have been particularly badly affected. Sectors have been hit at all levels and so it has never been so critical to ensure that everyone understands and is confident about the choices they have so they can make the absolute best decisions with the money they have. This is where employer can help. An employer-led financial wellbeing strategy with hyper-personalised guidance and insight, can play a key role in enhancing the mental and financial wellbeing of their employees.”

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