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Britons experiencing an epidemic of extreme mental distress

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Corporate / Mental Health / United Kingdom

Britons experiencing an epidemic of extreme mental distress

LifeWorks’ Mental Health Index™ shows that Britons’ mental health score continues to be challenged almost a year into the pandemic

LONDON, 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 Britons for the tenth consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for January is -13.3, indicating a continuation of the decline in mental health compared to the pre-2020 benchmark and a moderate decrease from December (-12.8).

Britons’ low mental health score is due in part to continued struggles with psychological health. The sub-score for psychological health recently reached its lowest point since the inception of the Index™. This indicates that people are starting to see themselves as less mentally healthy, not just having a temporary feeling of anxiety or distress.

“Prolonged nationwide lockdowns continue to amplify the stressors that individuals are facing across the United Kingdom,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “While we have seen periods of both improvements and declines in mental wellbeing throughout the year, it’s clear that a mental health crisis is still underway as the national mental health score is now approaching the lowest scores observed at the outset of the pandemic. A persistent decline in psychological health has the potential to significantly impact organisations’ bottom line in the short and longer term, and it is imperative that employers focus resources and communications on employees’ wellbeing to ensure they feel supported, engaged and well-equipped to cope with the pandemic-driven fatigue.”

Similarly, financial stress and economic uncertainty continue to threaten the mental health of Britons, with stable employment critical to offsetting poorer mental wellbeing. The research found that individuals with reduced salaries during the pandemic reported the lowest mental health score (-23.3), followed by those who reported fewer hours when compared to the prior month (-20.9) and those not currently employed (-18.1).

Young Britons changing priorities to focus on mental health
As Britons continue to manage their daily lives and establish new routines to stay well through the pandemic, many are rethinking their priorities. Nearly one third (31 per cent) of working Britons collectively reported wanting to focus 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.

“Almost one year in, the pandemic has shown minimal signs of slowing down and one of the main challenges for the U.K. population has been maintaining mental wellbeing,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Thirty-three per cent of working Britons are concerned about the mental health of a co-worker. This reinforces that we still have a problem, but it is encouraging in that we are able to connect enough to recognise 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 2,000 respondents in the United Kingdom. All respondents reside in the United Kingdom 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 U.K. 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