· 1 min read · News

Half have felt too anxious or depressed to go to work


Mental health issues remain the leading cause of long-term absences from work

Almost half (48%) of UK employees report having felt too anxious or depressed to get up for work at some point in their career, according to research from Peakon and psychologist Niels Eék.

The survey of 1,500 British workers found that while 56% of employees would feel confident discussing their mental health issues with their managers, only 39% of managers feel equipped and sufficiently trained to deal with mental health issues that direct reports may be experiencing.

Eék highlighted the importance of communication when it comes to mental health issues. “The workplace can feel incredibly lonely without a confidant,” he said. “We often find that communication, or even just access to someone willing to listen, can have a positive effect on symptoms of mental health.

“Those in managerial positions need to take extra care. A poor choice of words or insensitive remark can not only make a person’s depression or anxiety more severe, but can also resonate for weeks and months afterwards.”

Dan Rogers, co-founder of Peakon, said that mental health should no longer be considered a “taboo” subject. “Much is made of physical health being conducive to high performance at work, which is why companies frequently offer subsidised gym memberships and private healthcare to staff,” he said. “Mental wellbeing, however, is often prone to neglect, due in part to the associated taboo and also the fact that the symptoms are typically invisible.

“It is essential that employers understand the importance of all aspects of employee wellbeing, and have the appropriate provisions in place.”

Separate data from financial mutual Wesleyan found that mental health issues remain the leading cause of long-term absences from work.

More than a third (34%) of all income protection claims made to the firm were due to mental health problems, making it more prevalent than the next most common issues of musculoskeletal conditions (13%) and cancer (13%).

Clive Bridge, managing director of life and pensions at Wesleyan, said good employment can help those suffering from mental health issues. “There has been a huge drive in recent years to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace," he said. “Depression and anxiety can keep people off work for a long time. However, knowing they are still able to receive an income while they are unable to work eases the worry of how bills and expenses can still be paid, meaning they can concentrate fully on getting better.”