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Poor Mental Health Continues to Trouble UK Workers

While the United States has been hit hard with a confluence of issues around COVID-19, racial injustice and overall daily disruption, the United Kingdom hasn’t been immune to any of these crises either.


Overall mental stress has increased for 25% of Britons in July, according to Morneau Shepell’s “Mental Health Index” report. This makes July the fourth consecutive month of a negative mental health score for British workers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

A positive, however, was that 9% reported experiencing less stress in July compared to the previous month. The greatest increase in stress month over month was for respondents living in Scotland, with those living in Wales reporting the lowest increase in mental stress.

The Mental Health Index™ score of -12 for July, which measures a decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75, is unchanged from the previous month. The Mental Health Index also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring optimism (-16.5), anxiety (-14.9), depression (-14.6), work productivity (-12.8) and isolation (-10.7). Although the sub-scores remain low, depression improved the most when compared with the prior month (-15.3).

"While parts of the United Kingdom began reopening in June, leaders and public health officials continue to struggle with finding the right balance between reopening the economy and ensuring public safety. The Mental Health Index shows the continued negative impact that uncertainty is having on British workers' mental health and quality of life,” said Philip Mullen, Morneau Shepell managing director in U.K. and Europe. "Even with a gradual return to the 'new normal,' many Britons remain on edge, hoping for an economic recovery while keeping a close eye on transmission rates.”

Division Surrounding Systemic Racism
Overall, 61% of individuals surveyed believe that racism is a problem in the UK, though only 13% believe that racism is a problem in their workplace. When considering the results by race, 82% of individuals identifying as East Asian, 76% identifying as black and 76% identifying as South Asian strongly agree or agree that racism is a problem in the UK. While 60% of individuals identifying as white strongly agree or agree that racism is a problem in the UK.

One of the major issues facing British society — systemic racism — has received heightened awareness as a result from the many protests held worldwide in response to the number of recent killings of black Americans, in addition to the negative experiences of racialized residents in the UK. As more Britons begin to give meaningful thought to this issue, their outlook varies. 28% of respondents feel that systemic racism is likely to decrease in the UK, 36% are unsure and 35% feel that systemic racism is unlikely to decrease. When it comes to their workplace, 19% feel that it is likely systemic racism will decrease, 37% are unsure, and 44% feel that systemic racism is unlikely to decrease.

Employer Size Matters
July's report reflects a strong correlation between an individual's Mental Health Index scores and the size of the company where they are employed. Britons who indicate working at companies with 51-100 employees have the lowest average mental health scores (-15.2), while those who report being self-employed/sole proprietors (-10.4) or at employers with 2-50 employees (-10.5) have the highest mental health scores. Those working at companies with more than 10,000 employees had a mental health score of -10.9.

"While small businesses continue to be disproportionally impacted by the pandemic over large companies, once an organization reaches more than 50 workers, that close-knit familial sentiment felt by employees begins to strain, as managers need to supervise more workers and have less time to do so," said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. "Larger employers are likely to offer benefits and programs to support employees, which are extremely valuable for employee well-being. It's critical for employers of all sizes to seek ways to support their people's health and well-being, now more than ever. Employee assistance programs are much more cost effective than many small- to mid-size organizations realize and they offer support that can be life changing."

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