Nuffield Health has found that a third of people believe their mental health has worsened in the last year
“As well as the day-to-day worries that come with our personal and working lives, employees have also had to deal with the impact of a global pandemic and now the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. All these stressors combined can significantly affect the mental health of employees, so it’s more important than ever that businesses find ways to create open, transparent, and connected workplace environments." Lisa Gunn, mental health prevention lead at Nuffield Health
More than half the people in the UK (59%) say that the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to a new report.
Nuffield Health’s 2023 Healthier Nation Index, based on a survey of 8,000 UK adults, also found that when people were asked what they thought was having the biggest impact on the nation’s health, cost of living was seen as the most significant (63%), followed by lack of physical activity (46%) and lack of mental health support (38%).
In the past year just over a third (34%) said their mental or emotional health had worsened, while a similar number (35%) said their physical health had got worse. Those aged 35–54 were the most likely to have experienced an impact, with 40% reporting a decline in mental health.
Two in five respondents said their sleep had worsened, with nearly half (48%) stating their lack of sleep was having a negative impact on their mental health. On average, those surveyed are only getting five hours and 54 minutes of sleep a night, a decrease from last year where the average was six hours and six minutes.
Marc Holl, head of primary care at Nuffield Health, said: “The Healthier Nation Index has tracked the state of the nation’s health since 2020 and, as we move from a period of great uncertainty due to the pandemic, the follow-up cost-of-living crisis is having a profound impact on everyone.”
More positively, the report also found that one in four people (29%) now feel comfortable about letting their employer know if they need time off as a result of poor mental health.
Although employees are now more likely to discuss their mental health problems with their employers, there is still some stigma about mental illness in the workplace. More than a third (35%) of employees, for example, said that they had called in sick because of mental health problems but had given another reason. This is a slight drop from the 2022 report, which had a figure of 39%.
Lisa Gunn, mental health prevention lead at Nuffield Health, said: “We are passionate about building a healthier nation and know that challenging work environments and stress can have a huge knock-on effect on both our physical and mental wellbeing.
“As well as the day-to-day worries that come with our personal and working lives, employees have also had to deal with the impact of a global pandemic and now the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. All these stressors combined can significantly affect the mental health of employees, so it’s more important than ever that businesses find ways to create open, transparent, and connected workplace environments.
“When people feel supported and able to reach out to their employer, this can have a positive impact on their mental health alone and help them better address feelings of worry and anxiety.”
Nuffield Health is running a campaign called Find 5, encouraging people to spend five minutes a day focusing on their mental and physical wellbeing. This could include spending five minutes less on your phone before bed, getting off the bus one stop early to get an extra five minutes of exercise, or swapping five items in your shopping basket for a healthier alternative “Just five extra minutes of exercise a day can significantly boost mental and physical wellbeing, whether that’s going for a brisk walk, taking up gardening or carrying heavy shopping bags home,” Holl said.
For more information and short videos on the Find 5 campaign, visit The Healthier Nation Index Hub.
The annual Nuffield Health Index has proved to be a valuable way of tracking the nation’s mental health. This year’s finding that more than half of those surveyed say the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health is disheartening, though not surprising. It’s more encouraging to see that people are becoming more open about their mental health in the workplace, though there is still some way to go. Improving the nation’s mental health is going to require, not just better access to support, but tackling the pressing issues of people being unable to pay their bills or getting behind with their rent.