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Mental health concerns skyrocket, 74 per cent of Britons report negative impact from the pandemic

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Corporate / Mental Health / United Kingdom

Mental health concerns skyrocket, 74 per cent of Britons report negative impact from the pandemic

The recently unemployed, women and younger people report the highest stress levels, according to Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index

LONDON, May 4, 2020 – Morneau Shepell, a leader in integrated HR solutions, announced today that Britons are experiencing sharp increases in depression and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout. Morneau Shepell’s new Mental Health Index shows that a significant majority (74 per cent) of respondents report the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, while 97 per cent of respondents say that they have experienced some type of personal disruption.

The Mental Health Index also shows that close to half (42 per cent) of the people experiencing disruption believe that they will be able to cope, while another 32 per cent indicate greater concern and uncertainly regarding their ability to cope. About half (44 per cent) of those individuals reported experiencing a very negative impact or crisis. In April, Britons had a mental health score of 61, compared to the benchmark of 75. That places the typical Briton at the same level of the lowest one percent of the benchmark, indicating a population in serious distress. The 14-point drop in mental health is unparalleled during the three-year period in which Morneau Shepell collected benchmark data.

Data from April demonstrated significant declines in levels of mental health and the ability to cope with notably lower scores for: depression (-17.7 points), anxiety (-17.3 points) and optimism (-16.4 points), work productivity (-13.6 points) and isolation (-13.0 points). Those who were employed within the previous six months but are not currently, those who identify as female, those with two or more children and those between 40-49 years of age reported the largest increases in stress. Similarly, households with incomes between £60k-£100K per annum experienced the greatest increase in stress in April compared to other income groups. Respondents in Wales registered the highest increase in stress month over month, while those in Northern Ireland and Scotland experienced the smallest increase in stress.

“While the immediate focus has been on dealing with the physical health and safety concerns surrounding the escalation of COVID-19, this index demonstrates just how deeply Britons’ mental health is being impacted by the pandemic,” said Philip Mullen, managing director, UK and Europe. “Paying attention to the mental health of working Britons is important to quality of life and business productivity. Companies that invest in the mental health of their workforces can help their people recover a sense of wellbeing and normalcy in their lives as we work together to seek a way forward.”

Fear of losing loved ones and getting ill remain highest concerns
The Mental Health Index also measured specific concerns and fears related to the pandemic. The most pervasive concerns affecting Britons’ mental health include:

  • fear of losing a loved one (53 per cent);
  • getting ill with COVID-19 (42 per cent);
  • the financial impact of the pandemic (41 per cent);
  • uncertainty around how the virus will impact family and relationships (29 per cent); and
  • fear of dying from COVID-19 (27 per cent).

“This research establishes an important national baseline for the mental health of British workers and has direct implications for individuals, employers and governments as we seek to move beyond the pandemic,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “By working together, we can provide mental health support to those who need it, minimizing long-term damage and enabling us to bounce back even stronger than before.”

Morneau Shepell will be publishing the Mental Health Index on a monthly basis going forward. It will assess changes in mental health and the issues that Britons are most anxious about as the situation and outlook evolves during and after the pandemic. Morneau Shepell also revealed country-specific data from its Mental Health Index in Canada, Australia and the United States.

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted from April 4th to April 9th, 2020, with 2,000 respondents in total. 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 full U.K. report can be found here.

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

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is the 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