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COVID-19 and heightened attention to racism continue to affect British workers’ mental health and relationships

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Corporate / Mental Health / United Kingdom

COVID-19 and heightened attention to racism continue to affect British workers’ mental health and relationships

Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index™ remains steady in July at 12 points below the pre-pandemic benchmark of 75

LONDON, August 5, 2020 – Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, making July the fourth consecutive month with negative mental health score for British workers compared to pre-pandemic levels. While mental stress has increased for one-in-four Britons (25 per cent), nine per cent reported experiencing less stress in July compared to the previous month. The greatest increase in stress month over month was for respondents living in Scotland, with those living in Wales reporting the lowest increase in mental stress.

The Mental Health Index™ score for July is -12, which measures a decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75, is unchanged from the previous month. The Mental Health Index™ also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring optimism (-16.5), anxiety (-14.9), depression (-14.6), work productivity (-12.8) and isolation (-10.7). Although the sub-scores remain low, depression improved the most when compared with the prior month (-15.3).

“While parts of the United Kingdom began reopening in June, leaders and public health officials continue to struggle with finding the right balance between reopening the economy and ensuring public safety. The Mental Health Index™ shows the continued negative impact that uncertainty is having on British workers’ mental health and quality of life,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. “Even with a gradual return to the ‘new normal,’ many Britons remain on edge, hoping for an economic recovery while keeping a close eye on transmission rates.”

Britons divided about systemic racism in society and the workplace

Overall, 61 per cent of individuals surveyed believe that racism is a problem in the United Kingdom, though only 13 per cent believe that racism is a problem in their workplace. When considering the results by race, 82 per cent of individuals identifying as East Asian, 76 per cent identifying as Black and 76 per cent identifying as South Asian strongly agree or agree that racism is a problem in the United Kingdom. Sixty (60) per cent of individuals identifying as White strongly agree or agree that racism is a problem in the United Kingdom.

One of the major issues facing British society – systemic racism – has received heightened awareness as a result from the many protests held worldwide in response to the number of recent killings of Black Americans, in addition to the negative experiences of racialised residents in the United Kingdom. As more Britons begin to give meaningful thought to this issue, their outlook varies. Twenty-eight (28) per cent of respondents feel that systemic racism is likely to decrease in the United Kingdom, 36 per cent are unsure, and 35 per cent feel that systemic racism is unlikely to decrease. When it comes to their workplace, 19 per cent feel that it is likely systemic racism will decrease, 37 per cent are unsure, and 44 per cent feel that systemic racism is unlikely to decrease.

Employer size also plays a key role in mental health levels

July’s report reflects a strong correlation between an individual’s Mental Health Index™ scores and the size of the company where they are employed. Britons who indicate working at companies with 51-100 employees have the lowest average mental health scores (-15.2), while those who report being self-employed/sole proprietors (-10.4) or at employers with 2-50 employees (-10.5) have the highest mental health scores. Those working at companies with more than 10,000 employees had a mental health score of -10.9.

“While small businesses continue to be disproportionally impacted by the pandemic over large companies, once an organization reaches more than 50 workers, that close-knit familial sentiment felt by employees begins to strain, as managers need to supervise more workers and have less time to do so,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “Larger employers are likely to offer benefits and programs to support employees, which are extremely valuable for employee wellbeing. It’s critical for employers of all sizes to seek ways to support their people’s health and wellbeing, now more than ever. Employee assistance programs are much more cost effective than many small- to mid-size organizations realize and they offer support that can be life changing.”

The full U.K. report includes more insight on changes to mental stress and variations of the Mental Health Index score by demographics, industries and regions. The full U.K. report can be found at:

About the Mental Health Index

The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted through an online survey in English from June 22 to June 30, 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 margins of error for the survey are +/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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

Mike Jurs