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Report reveals UK mental health crisis is worse than estimated in working people

Report reveals UK mental health crisis is worse than estimated in working people

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New figures from a leading mental health app, Wysa, show that the UK mental health crisis is worse than estimated in working people. More than one in three (35%) working people suffer moderate to severe depression or severe anxiety – three times higher than the estimated UK adult prevalence. Official figures point to one in six of us struggling with mental health, up from one in 10 prior to the Coronavirus pandemic.

And UK employees aren’t speaking up, with half not speaking to healthcare professionals, and only one in 10 (13%) comfortable enough to admit needing some time off for mental ill health to their employers.

According to the latest research from Wysa, 11.3 million adults should be getting some kind of therapy or support for moderate to severe anxiety or depression. The latest Health and Safety Executive report points to 914,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021/22 – but this research suggests a much greater issue.

The rate of moderate to severe anxiety or depression is higher amongst younger people – nearly half (44%) of under 24s are demonstrating symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety, compared to 27% over 54. The same pattern is seen when it comes to depression. Twice as many under 24s show scores suggesting moderate to severe depression as those over 55 (46% vs 21%). Overwork, the challenges of the economy and difficulties affording rent or houses are all taking a toll on the next generation.

These findings correlate with the recent Institute of Fiscal Studies report that stated the number of working age new disability benefit claimants has doubled in the past year. Around a third of new claims were for mental health conditions. Among claimants under 25 that figure rose to 70%.

Despite a growth in wellbeing programmes and many organisations speaking about mental health at work, people fear speaking up. When facing a period of mental ill health and feeling unable to work, a quarter of employees (24%) have taken time off as sick, using physical illness as the reason, and one in five (22%) have taken time off as holiday time using paid time off. Half (48%) have gone to work regardless and only 14% have been honest and taken time off as sick, using stress or mental health as the reason. One in five (18%) aged 25-34 have been honest, compared to one in ten (9%) aged 55-64.

Of all employees, if mental state was impacting their ability to work, men are more likely to take paid time off (25%) than women (17%) although women are slightly more likely to go to work anyway (54% vs 47%).

There could be a solution out there and an appetite for a digital option. More than four in five (83 %) would prefer to talk to a mental health app, with clinically proven self-help resources tailored to their needs, rather than their HR, and half (53 %) would choose an app over a therapist.

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