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Nationwide survey reveals prevalence of poor mental health

Anxiety or depression affects nearly one in five adults in the UK. That's according to a large-scale survey of 40,000 households undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of their Measuring National Wellbeing programme. One mental health charity said the survey was a 'wake-up call' for the NHS, but in terms of workplace wellbeing, performance and staff absences it's also cause for concern for Britain's employers. Mental health problems cost employers £30 billion each year.

The ONS survey reported that those in paid employment were less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression (15 per cent) than those not in paid work (23 per cent). On the other hand, mental ill-health at work can have a big impact. A study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that of employees with poor mental health, two in five were more likely to get into conflicts with colleagues, four in five found it hard to concentrate, three in five took longer to do tasks, and a half were often less patient with clients and customers.

Employers can do their bit to support staff with mental health problems and in Mental health in the workplace. This may include confronting the stigma that's often found around mental health, to help create an environment in which staff feel safe to talk and be listened to.

While employers can show empathy and understanding, they do have to recognise that some mental health issues are outside their influence or control. However, they can always help a situation by monitoring workloads, employee involvement, the physical environment and the nature of relationships at work.

Acas has published the pdf icon Promoting positive mental health in the workplace [386kb] and runs the 'Mental Health Awareness for Employers' course listed under Health, work and wellbeing.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects page for more information.

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