Recession has had devastating effect on british workers' mental wellbeing

Recession has had devastating effect on british workers' mental wellbeing

The recession has had a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of the British workforce, with a considerable number of people seeing their doctors and taking antidepressants for mental health problems and stress, apparently linked directly with the pressures of the recession in the workplace. The findings of MIND, a leading British mental health charity, have prompted fears for the mental health of hundreds of thousands of employees who face pressures as businesses tighten their belts.

According to MIND's Populus poll of 2,050 employees, as a direct result of recession in the UK:

  • 10% have visited their GP (general practitioner, primary care physician)
  • 28% were putting in more hours of work each week
  • 5% have consulted a counselor
  • 50% informed there was a slump in morale
  • 7% have started on a course of medical therapy for depression
  • Approximately 1/3 said employees were competing against one another
The findings coincide with new UK governments figures which reveal the largest ever increase in antidepressant prescriptions - 39.1 million were issued in 2009, compared to 35.9 million the year before.

Badly managed stress and problems related to mental health have for a long time been workforce issues. MIND informs that according to previous research, approximately 1 in every 6 people of working age experiences a mental health problem each year in the UK, and 5 million individuals believe work-related stress has made them very or extremely stressed.

According to MIND:

  • A mere 38% of employees believe their current employer is providing enough support
  • About 25% were brought to tears at work because of "unmanageable pressure"
  • Approximately 20% of individuals blamed their work for making them physically ill
  • Nearly half of all people have lost sleep due to work
  • Over one fifth had developed depression
MIND's Taking Care of Business campaign aims to improve working lives and environments over the next five years, with a strong focus on altering attitudes to mental wellbeing in the workplace. Large companies, such as BT (British Telecom), AXA, as well as several trade unions have backed the campaign.

MIND's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:

"Considering how much time we spend at work, it is hardly surprising that it can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. A bad work environment can be damaging and can trigger a wide range of problems from exhaustion to depression, while having a good working life is proven to be an asset for our overall mental health. Employers and employees have a responsibility to recognise that mental health is an issue in every workforce and make sure they are doing what they can to promote a healthy workplace.

Working conditions have been incredibly tough for the last couple of years, and the emotional fall out of the recession doesn't just centre on people who have lost their jobs, but on people who are struggling to cope with the extra demands of working harder, longer hours, and under more pressure as their employers battle for survival. It is more important than ever that businesses look at how they can manage stress levels and improve the working environment for all their employees. Investing in wellbeing doesn't have to be expensive, and businesses who look after their staff reap the rewards in reduced sickness absence and increased productivity. Small changes can have big results, such as making sure staff take their breaks and making time to listen to their concerns. Not investing in wellbeing can be damaging to staff and eat into the success of a business. No employer can afford to ignore mental health."

Source: MIND

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Section Issues On Medicine: Psychiatry