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Financial insecurity fuels mental ill-health

on Thursday, 11 October 2018.

Financial insecurity fuels mental ill-health

Employees are struggling to deal with the demands and insecurities of the workplace, while wider financial insecurity is contributing to poor mental health.

A national Mental Health at Work survey of more than 4,000 people commissioned by Business in the Community in partnership with Mercer, has revealed that people’s mental health and wellbeing is being affected by job security (66 per cent), the state of the economy (65 per cent) and the cost of living (77 per cent).

Financial concerns were found to cause three-fifths of respondents to say they had experienced negative mental health symptoms such as loss of sleep, lack of concentration and fatigue. Just 46 per cent of employees said they were satisfied with their current financial situation, while just 17 per cent believed that their employer supports those with financial difficulties.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, said: “There is a two-way causal relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health, but very few employers support employees experiencing financial difficulties. Employers have a role in educating employees in financial literacy and signposting to appropriate sources of professional support.”

However, despite this call to increase the availability of financial support, the research also showed that just 14 per cent of employees felt able to talk to their manager about financial issues.

Although employees have reservations about opening up to a manager, 85 per cent of people managers believe that employee wellbeing is their responsibility. Yet many felt that there were barriers to providing this support, with 67 per cent of line managers stating that they had not had any training on mental health.

“Although there has been slow incremental improvement of overall mental health at work over the past three years, collective and urgent action by employers is needed to build momentum quickly, taking a ‘whole person’ approach to physical, mental, financial and social health and wellbeing,” said Aston. 

The report calls for employers to take action to support financial wellbeing by: integrating financial wellbeing into organisational health and wellbeing policies; offering financial education; and provide signposting to organisations that offer free help and guidance on money issues.

“For the health of the workforce to flourish, focus must shift from disconnected initiatives to approaches that address employees’ physical and mental wellbeing as one,” said Wolfgang Seidl, workplace health consulting leader UK and Europe, Mercer Marsh Benefits. “Someone struggling to manage their income, may experience stress and sleep loss, leading to unhealthy comfort eating. They might not yet experience health issues and by encouraging a focus on financial wellness, employers can help prevent any from developing further down the line.

“Mental health has become such an abstract concept that it seems it cannot be treated, so a practical approach is important. Looking at the root causes, such as financial worries, harassment, lack of equality, lack of opportunities to exercise, and more, makes it easier to find ways to prevent and treat.”