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Almost half of working Australians say they need mental health support

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Corporate / Mental Health / Australia

Almost half of working Australians say they need mental health support

Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ for October continues to trend well below the pre-pandemic benchmark with a decline in work productivity

MELBOURNE, November 12, 2020 – Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a consistent trend of negative mental health among Australians at the seven-month mark of the pandemic. The Mental Health Index™ for October is -11.3, showing that Australians’ mental health continues to be at risk, with reduced workplace productivity and the need for mental health support adding to the continuing mental strain of the pandemic.

The Mental Health Index™ score, which measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75, is a slight improvement when compared to September (-13.2). This trend is displayed across all sub-scores tracked in The Mental Health Index™, including financial risk (2.6), psychological health (-4.3), isolation (-11.4), optimism (-12.1), anxiety (-12.5) and depression (-12.7).

Given the prolonged period of increased strain, 45 per cent of the Australian population report needing some form of mental health support. The most commonly reported source of mental health support is from family members (20 per cent), followed by support from friends or co-workers (18 per cent) and support from a mental health professional (eight per cent). Additionally, nine per cent of respondents indicate they need support but have not sought it. This group has the lowest mental health score (-33.6).

Flexible work hours key to improving work productivity and employee mental health
The score for workplace productivity (-13.8) is lower than all other sub-scores in October, however,  with many employees continuing to work remotely for the seventh consecutive month, increased workplace flexibility is helping to keep them motivated. Among 80 per cent of respondents who report having flexible work hours, 37 per cent indicate that having flexible work hours helps their productivity. This group’s mental health score is the highest (-10.3), compared to respondents who report that flexible work hours reduces their productivity (-20.4).

“Though the country has seen an incredible near-elimination of COVID-19 in recent weeks, it’s important to remember that employee expectations have changed since before the pandemic,” said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia and APAC. “Employees have come to expect flexibility from their employers. Understanding that routines have changed and adapting policies to meet this shift will be critical to continue supporting employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. This has never been more important as we continue to see a direct link between employee mental health and business success.”

Reduced hours more detrimental to Australians’ mental health than unemployment or reduced salary
While most respondents remain employed (94 per cent), 22 per cent report reduced hours or salary since April 2020. Individuals reporting reduced hours when compared to the prior month have the lowest mental health score (-18.9), followed by those not currently employed (-17.0) and those reporting reduced salary (-16.3). Despite working fewer hours, 42 per cent of respondents reported putting in more effort at work.

“Australians are now being encouraged to return to the physical workplace and while this will bring a sense of normalcy, employers need to continue prioritizing workplace mental health strategies. Changes in routine and ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic remain ongoing stressors,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “Overall, Australia has handled the pandemic very well. Ensuring employee mental health is a key business priority will be critical to making sure the mental health crisis is mitigated as successfully as the physical pandemic.”

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English from September 28 to October 19, 2020, with 1,000 respondents in Australia. All respondents reside in the Australia and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The full Australia report can be found at

The Mental Health Index™ is owned by Morneau Shepell – the wellbeing company that acquired LifeWorks in 2018.

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries. For more information, visit

Heather MacDonald
Morneau Shepell

Catherine Snider
Kaiser & Partners