Mental health scores drop among Australians experiencing reduced salaries and recent job loss
Morneau Shepell's Mental Health Index™ reveals most industry segments slightly improving from April; wholesale trade and administrative and support service workers see their mental health decline
MELBOURNE, June 3, 2020 – Morneau Shepell, a leader in integrated HR solutions, today released its May 2020 Mental Health Index™ results. Measuring against a benchmark of 75, employees whose salaries were reduced in May reported a negative mental health score (-22.4), similar to those who recently lost their jobs (-23.2). For context, sixty per cent of Australian respondents indicated that they remained employed at the same income level, 34 per cent indicated either a reduction in hours or salary and six per cent reported recent job loss.
People in households with only one adult have the lowest Mental Health Index™ scores of any group (-17.9 compared to the benchmark of 75). This group improved from where they were in April (-20.2). The main factors affecting this group’s mental health include the stress of being alone or trying to manage children alone.
Overall, the May results showed a slight improvement in Australians’ mental health compared to the sharp and unprecedented dive it took in April with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mental Health Index™ shows that in May, Australians had a mental health score of -15, up slightly from April’s score of -17 – both measured against the benchmark of 75. However, it still means that the mental health of the population as a whole is equivalent to the bottom one per cent of the benchmark.
Impacted industries show signs of strain, while others improve
Worker mental health varied by industry when comparing to the benchmark. On the low end of the scale, wholesale trade (-18.8); administrative and support services (-16.9); food services (-22.4); and educational services (-17.4) continued to see declines in worker mental health. Of those groups, workers in wholesale trade and food services face uncertain futures as many parts of the country remain in lockdown, while administrative support personnel and educators may be cracking under the strain of working remotely. Meanwhile, respondents who worked in public administration; professional, scientific and technical services; and retail trade saw the greatest improvements.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Mental Health Index™ shows the devastating impact that ongoing disruption can have on the quality of Australian workers’ mental health," said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia operations. "We’re seeing early signs of hope in certain areas, but will remain committed to supporting the mental health of Australian employees.”
Employees who had access to an employee assistance program had better Mental Health IndexTM scores (-12.6) than those who did not (-16.4) compared to the benchmark of 75.
Workers gradually accepting a prolonged battle
The Mental Health Index™ also shows deteriorating confidence that the personal disruption caused by the pandemic will end relatively soon. In April, 21 per cent believed that the COVID-19 threat would not end until at least January 2021. Now, 24 per cent of respondents (the largest group) are preparing for the disruption to end no earlier than January 2021.
Financial impact of the pandemic remains Australians’ highest concern
The Mental Health Index™ also measured specific concerns and fears related to the pandemic. The most pervasive concerns affecting Australians' mental health remain:
- the financial impact of the pandemic (57 per cent);
- losing a loved one (32 per cent);
- becoming ill (30 per cent); and
- uncertainty around how the virus will impact family and relationships (21 per cent).
“The Mental Health Index™ is critical in helping us understand changes to mental health over time. The pandemic is not a temporary issue. It is a major life and economic shift that will have ups and downs,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “We need to be aware of potential risk to ensure support is available to those in need. The slight improvement in May is encouraging. We also need to prepare for the impact of the second and perhaps third wave, which may have an even more profound impact than the first wave.”
Morneau Shepell will continue publishing the Mental Health Index™ on a monthly basis. It will assess changes in mental health and the issues that Australians are most anxious about as the situation and outlook evolves during and after the pandemic.
About the Mental Health Index™
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted from April 30 to May 11, 2020, with 2,000 respondents in total. All respondents reside in the 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 margins of error for the survey are+/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20. The full Australian report can be found https://www.morneaushepell.com/permafiles/92599/mental-health-index-report-australia-may-2020.pdf.
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 morneaushepell.com.