Anxiety, stress and depression: job sector ‘mental health hotspots’

Mental health wellbeing is increasingly becoming an issue in the workplace, but new research reveals that there are some sectors in which it is more of a concern as it impacts people’s ability to function at work.

  • 2% of British workers have experienced mental health issues in the past
  • On average, British workers struggled with their mental health for 14.2 days over 2018 – a total of three working weeks

The study, which was conducted by Salary Finance, a salary-linked employee benefits provider that partners with employers to deliver financial wellbeing for staff, found that almost three quarters (72%) of British workers have experienced mental health issues at some point in the past.

The top 10 issues workers in the UK struggled with in 2018 include:

  • Anxiety (38%)
  • Stress (35%)
  • Depression (31%)
  • Sleep deprivation (24%)
  • Loneliness (16%)
  • Panic attacks (15%)
  • Self-esteem (14%)
  • Eating disorder (8%)
  • Paranoia (7%)
  • OCD (6%)

On average, British workers took 2.1 days off work in 2018 due to poor mental health. However, in reality, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The research also found that Brits went into work for an additional 12.1 days despite struggling. In total, the average British worker suffered with mental health problems for three working weeks (14.2 working days) in 2018.

>See also: 39% of employers fail to offer mental health support

According to the findings, IT workers took the most mental health sick days (10.8) in 2018, and those working in science and pharmaceuticals took the least (0). Those working in recruitment and HR were most likely to suffer from mental health issues overall, and energy and utilities were least.

Recruitment and HR professionals were most likely to suffer from stress, whereas social care workers were most likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. On the other hand, people working in the environment and agriculture sectors struggled with loneliness and SAD the most out of all of the industries. People working in law enforcement and security were most likely to lie to their line manager if they were struggling.

Issues spread across all levels

Interestingly, job level does not necessarily correlate to mental health, with a spread of issues across all levels. However, the level may determine how comfortable people feel taking time off. For example, those at senior director level took the most days off work last year due to poor mental health (21.5), and those at the supervisor level took the least (1.6). The survey also found that CEOs are more likely to suffer from stress than any other mental health issue, followed by anxiety and then depression.

Andrew Sharman, an author and in-demand consultant who works globally with Fortune 500 companies to improve their culture and enable excellence, commented:

“Nearly 50% of employees with a current health condition feel that it affects their ability to do their job, and around 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems lose their jobs every year – and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions. Poor mental health costs employers between £33bn and £42bn a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74bn and £99bn.”

Salary Finance’s research also revealed that 26% would lie to their line manager if they were struggling. Most workers admitted that they feel “uncomfortable” talking about mental health at work and did not want to tell anybody if they were struggling. 10% felt “worried” that opening up might hold them back in their career.

On a more positive note, 47% of British workers would be honest with their line manager about their mental health, and a quarter of workers feel “supported” and trust that their line manager would help them with a problem. Forty-one per cent of workers have been open and honest with their line managers about their mental health before, and when they were, the majority (68%) of line managers and companies responded well and supported the employee.

Fifty-seven per cent of line managers and HR professionals that were polled had received training through their employer on how to assist employees with mental health, and many have noticed an increase in the number of colleagues who are coming to HR with mental health issues in recent years.

>See also: Lower paid staff are more afraid of discussing mental health issues with employers

Gin Lalli, an Edinburgh-based psychotherapist, commented on the topic: “Allowing employees to take time off to visit a mental health specialist, just as you would see a GP for a cold, should be a priority for businesses. I see a lot of professionals who can’t talk openly at work, and it is creating even more stress for themselves and their employers.”

Anni Townend Leadership Consultant and Executive Coach at Anni Townend, commented: “Leaders who themselves are open about their mental and emotional wellbeing empower and are role models for others, they inspire and encourage not only openness about mental health but also about other differences.”

 Asesh Sarkar, CEO and co-founder at Salary Finance, commented on the findings:“Being open about mental health in the workplace is important. While there are many positives to be taken from our research, it also shows that we still have a way to go.

“For example, people feel more comfortable talking about having stomach upsets than mental health – illustrating there still is a stigma attached.

“Mental health in the workplace is not an issue designated to one type of person – it is prevalent across all demographics, as well as job sector and job levels.

“Enabling and supporting employees in their personal lives makes them happier at work, so businesses of all sizes should make mental health in the workplace a priority.”

>See also: Disability discrimination law and employee wellbeing – can you manage both?