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Britons increasing alcohol and drug use to cope with mental strain; parents at highest risk

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Corporate / Mental Health / United Kingdom

Britons increasing alcohol and drug use to cope with mental strain; parents at highest risk

LifeWorks reveals that many Britons are unaware of the substance use resources offered by their employers

LONDON, June 29, 2021 – LifeWorks, a leading provider of technology-enabled total wellbeing solutions, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental-health score among Britons for the 14th consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for May is -11.2 compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark. This marks the highest point since the inception of the Index in April 2020 (-13.8), following a trend of steady improvement that began in February 2021.

The research revealed that one third (33 per cent) of respondents who use alcohol reported an increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic, while one quarter (25 per cent) of Britons who use other drugs reported an increase in their drug use. This trend is of particular concern among parents, as they are more than twice as likely to report an increase in drug use when compared to non-parents. This can negatively affect home dynamics, with parents who use alcohol or other drugs nearly three times as likely as non-parents to report that substance use has made it difficult to complete home- or family-related tasks and responsibilities. 

“Parents have been put to the ultimate test over the past year, with competing responsibilities at work and home contributing to added pressure sustained over an unusually long period of time,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “Some parents are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a result of prolonged stress. This is a critical issue and one that needs to be monitored and addressed by employers as soon as possible.”

Many Britons unaware of substance use resources offered by their employers
In May, the research found that more than one third (34 per cent) of respondents reported that their employer does not provide resources to help with those who are experiencing challenges related to substance use, which is close to three times higher than those reporting that their employer does provide resources (13 per cent). Although best practices include providing employees and their family members with access to treatment and support resources, close to half of respondents (47 per cent) report that they either do not know if their employer offers resources or are not sure what resources are available.

“Our research is highlighting a significant disconnect in the number of employees reporting an increase in drug or alcohol use and the support offered by their employers,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “If organizations do not begin to offer support or proactively communicate the resources available to help their workforce, we will see substance use become an entirely new pandemic. Employers play an important role in leading their teams towards healthier lives and this is an urgent wakeup call they cannot miss.”

The full U.K. Mental Health Index™ report can be found here. This month, the report includes additional insights on substance use disorder treatment resources for employees, reasons people do not seek treatment, the impact of alcohol and other drug use on workplace absenteeism, and more.

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey from April 24 to May 6, 2021 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, 2019.

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