Stress and depression cost employers £26 billion last year as staff felt compelled to work longer hours and compete against each other to keep their jobs as a result of the recession.
According to a study undertaken among 2,050 workers by Populus on behalf of mental health charity Mind, this situation resulted in one in ten respondents visiting their GP to obtain support. Some 7% of the total ended up on anti-depressants, with government statistics indicating a rise in such prescriptions to 39.1 million last year, up from 35.9 million in 2008. A further 5% went into counselling.
Nearly half of those questioned said that staff morale in their workplace was low due to increased amounts of pressure. About 28% indicated that they working longer hours and a third confirmed that they felt they had to compete with colleagues in order to keep their jobs.
Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer, said: “A bad work environment can be damaging and trigger a wide range of problems from exhaustion to depression, while having a good working life is proven to be an asset for our overall mental health.”
As a result, employers had a responsibility to explore ways of helping personnel to manage stress and to promote a healthy workplace, he added.
The research also found that, over the course of their careers, 22% of workers experienced depression. A huge one in five said that work-related stress had made them physically ill, while one of four had cried at work due to unmanageable levels of pressure.
Nearly half of all respondents had likewise lost sleep due to work-related anxiety, but a mere 38% of staff felt that their employer was doing enough to support them.
Although mental health problems are the second biggest cause of absence due to sickness, awareness and understanding of the issue is poor. According to a study by the Shaw Trust, seven out of ten employers believed that 5% or less of their personnel would suffer mental health issues during their lifetime, while only one in six were able to say what the impact might be.
“Investing in wellbeing doesn’t have to be expensive and businesses that look after their staff reap the rewards in reduced sickness absence and increased productivity. Small changes can have big results such as making sure staff take their breaks and making time to listen to their concerns,” Farmer said.