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Australians still experiencing an epidemic of extreme mental distress

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Corporate / Mental Health / Australia

Australians still experiencing an epidemic of extreme mental distress

LifeWorks' Mental Health Index™ shows that financial risk is impacting Australians’ mental health score

MELBOURNE, February 18, 2021 – LifeWorks, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental health score among Australians for the tenth consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for January is -10.7, indicating a continued decline in mental health compared to the pre-2020 benchmark and a slight decrease from December (-10.3).

One of the benefits of the pandemic is that from April to November 2020, Australians increased their level of savings to a level that was better than before the pandemic. Since November, however, we have seen a decline of 3.3 points, as these savings are depleted and ahead of the removal of federal government assistance programs at the end of Q1.

Australians’ mental wellbeing continues to be affected by the fallout of the pandemic, despite a steady mental health score in recent months,” said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia and APAC. “As many regions across the country enter further lockdowns, Australians have been reminded that the pandemic is not over and its impact across all areas of wellbeing remains significant. Employers must recognize that isolation, depression and anxiety are not the only risk factors affecting employees’ health, and that financial risk is also taking a toll on Australians. To remain successful, it is critical that employers implement a holistic wellbeing strategy that provides employees with resources and support across all areas of total health.”

Full-time post-secondary students report the lowest mental health score
The pandemic has presented tremendous challenges to full-time post-secondary students, requiring them adapt to a virtual learning environment regardless of whether they were equipped with the appropriate resources. The ongoing inconsistencies and ever-evolving restrictions in the virtual learning environment, limited peer support, and both financial and future career uncertainty, have led to full-time post-secondary students reporting the lowest mental health score (-23.0) when compared to individuals across all industry sectors.

Furthermore, full-time post-secondary students are experiencing the most significant increase month-over-month in mental stress compared to other industries tracked by the Mental Health Index™. Beyond the challenges of today, the pandemic has also exacerbated many pre-existing risks for students.

Young Australians changing priorities to focus on mental health
As Australians continue to manage their daily lives and establish new routines to stay well through the pandemic, many are rethinking their priorities. More than one third (34 per cent) of Australians collectively reported wanting to focus more on their mental health, indicating a heightened awareness of the importance of a healthy mindset. Priorities vary across generations, however, with individuals between the ages of 20 and 29 nearly twice as likely to report wanting to focus on their mental health when compared to those over the age of 60.

“The silver lining of the pandemic has been the increased attention on mental health,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Thirty-four per cent of working Australians are concerned about the mental health of a co-worker. This reinforces that we still have a problem, but is encouraging in that we are able to connect enough to recognize the need in others. It is important for us not to ignore when we see someone in distress. Show you care, tell them what you have seen that is causing concern and let them know about the support available through an employee assistance program or other resources for counselling.”

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey from December 14 to December 23, 2020, 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 and 2019. Click here to read the Australian Mental Health Index™ report.

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

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks 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. LifeWorks employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries.


Heather MacDonald

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners