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Almost half of working Australians want mental-health support; affordability is barrier for some

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Corporate / Mental Health / Australia

Almost half of working Australians want mental-health support; affordability is barrier for some

LifeWorks Mental Health Index™ shows that significant work is required to improve Australians’ mental health

MELBOURNE, May 27, 2021 – LifeWorks Inc., a leading provider of technology-enabled total wellbeing solutions, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental-health score among Australians for the thirteenth consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for April is -11.2. Negative scores indicate a lower level of mental health compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark.

The April 2021 score is relatively consistent with the score reported in March 2021 (-11.1). In April, the lowest Mental Health Index™ sub-score was isolation (-12.6), which worsened by almost two full points when compared to March (-10.8). This demonstrates that reports of a delayed vaccine administration, restrictions on cross-border travel and suspension of the “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand may be negatively impacting Australians’ mental health. 

“Border restrictions and expedited tracing systems have helped rein in the spread of COVID-19 in Australia and nearly eliminated the virus, however, sudden preventative lockdowns in some cities and the pandemic’s long-term impact are continuing the increased mental strain we have all been experiencing,” said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia and APAC. “Australia is a vanguard of pandemic reduction, and in many cases, is a leading example for countries across the globe. With this in mind, Australian employers will also be under a global microscope when implementing return-to-work plans. Employers have a great opportunity to set a precedent for effective mental wellbeing support as organizations across the world determine how to make the post-pandemic workplace stronger than ever before.”

Beliefs regarding the affordability of mental health care remains a concern for Australians
Despite relentless efforts to increase awareness about the long-term implications of declining mental health, some Australians have been reluctant to access mental-health support due to several barriers. To date, 51 per cent of respondents feel they do not need support, 34 per cent have taken steps to improve their mental health and an another 16 per cent have not taken steps but would like to. Within the latter group, affordability of care and a lack of time to seek care were both reported as the greatest barriers to mental-health improvement (33 per cent each), followed by uncertainty about where to access care (21 per cent). The research also revealed that individuals identifying as male were most likely to report a lack of time to seek care (39 per cent), uncertainty about where to access care (26 per cent) and lack of energy to seek care (25 per cent) as the top barriers, compared to 29 per cent, 16 per cent and 14 per cent of those identifying as female, respectively.

“Many people may not be aware of the mental-health support that is available at no cost to them, through their employee assistance program. EAPs are sponsored by employers as voluntary, confidential service for employees and their family members.,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Employers play an important role in ensuring mental-health support is accessible and flexible for all employees. Through constant communication and ease of access to mental-health care, employers have the power to make a real difference in the lives of their workforce.”

Australians’ outlook for the future influenced by reduced restrictions and vaccines
In April, the research found that more than one quarter (26 per cent) of Australians reported that their outlook would be helped by there being no more restrictions of any kind, followed by 23 per cent of employees’ outlook being influenced by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and 15 per cent of employees’ looking forward to the population reaching herd immunity. These groups also reported the most favourable mental health scores (-7.4, -7.6 and -8.7, respectively).


About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey from March 22 to April 2, 2021, with 1,000 respondents in Australia. All respondents reside in 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, 2019. Click here to read the Australian Mental Health Index™ report.

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks is a global leader in delivering technology-enabled solutions that help clients support the total wellbeing of their people and build organizational resiliency. By improving lives, we improve business. Our solutions span employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement and financial consulting, actuarial and investment services. LifeWorks employs approximately 7,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in more than 160 countries. For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners