The true cost of running on empty: work-related stress costing UK economy £28bn a year


Authored by AXA

  • Latest economic modelling from AXA UK and Centre of Economic and Business Research shows work-related stress and burnout is currently costing the UK economy £28bn a year and resulting in 23.3m sick days a year
  • Data from AXA’s Mind Health Study reveals almost half (47%) of the country are currently struggling or languishing, defined as an absence of positive wellbeing or in emotional distress
  • AXA UK is launching a ‘Mind Health Meter’ to help people understand the state of their mind health, avoid getting to the point of struggling and reduce stress levels

New data and economic modelling from AXA UK and Centre for Business and Economic Research (Cebr) reveals people reaching the point of struggling with burnout and work-related stress is a significant issue for the UK economy, with an estimated £28bn lost last year due to poor mental health at work*. The majority of this cost is due to loss of working days because of stress, burnout and general poor mental health, with businesses losing 23.3m working days as a result of these issues.

The AXA Mind Health Study, a survey of 30,000 people aged 18 to 74 from 16 European, Asian and American countries, found that more than a fifth (21%) of UK adults are in emotional distress, defined by the study as ‘struggling’, and a further quarter (26%) have an absence of positive wellbeing, defined in the study as ‘languishing’. This means almost half of the UK are currently not in a positive state of mental wellbeing and at risk of burning out, which is having a significant impact on the economy and businesses across the UK.

Now in its third year, the study found some signs of improvement in the UK, with a decline in the stigma associated with having a mental health condition and more people ‘flourishing’ and enjoying very good mind health (23%) compared to last year (18%) – one of the biggest increases among the countries surveyed. However, the UK shared the top spot for proportion of people struggling, alongside the US.

Over the past few years, burnout and work-related stress have increasingly come under the spotlight and this has been further highlighted recently with public figures such as former Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and New Zealand’s ex-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitting there is “nothing left in the tank”. 

The study reveals that almost one in two people (46%) are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future and the UK’s cost-of-living crisis seems to be having a particularly negative impact. Data from Cebr shows that financial stress and concerns among employees are costing UK businesses up to £6.2bn alone in sick days and lack of productivity.

The AXA Mind Health Study is conducted in collaboration with IPSOS and aims to identify mental health and wellness issues in society to help build solutions to mitigate them.

Data from the AXA Mind Health Study and economic modelling from Cebr also shows:

  • Women and young people are experiencing poorer mental health
    • Women are more likely to be suffering from a mental health condition (38% vs 27%) and to currently be in a struggling state (24% vs 18%) compared to men
    • Female employees are less likely to have flourishing mind health compared with their male counterparts (16% vs 26%)
    • Almost half (48%) of people between the ages of 18-24 currently suffer from a mental health condition, compared to 22% of those over 55
  • The stigma associated with having a mental health condition is declining
    • 55% of people agree that the stigma associated with having a mental health condition is declining compared to 50% last year
    • Most people (70%) trust their family and friends to provide mental health support and 65% believe they would know how to access help for a mental health condition if they needed it
  • The negative effects on employee wellbeing
    • Latest data from the ONS and previous studies on sick days show burnout is associated with absenteeism, with a 21% increase in sick days per year
    • In addition, burnout and stress result in reduced productivity, decreased organisational performance and increased healthcare costs
    • However, mental health support at work makes a big difference. The Mind Health Study reveals that those who are supported at work are twice as likely to be happy and almost three and a half times more likely to be flourishing
  • There is wide-ranging inequality amongst those who are struggling
    • Public sector workers are more likely to experience burnout or work-related stress
    • Health and social sectors are more likely to feel worried about their job
    • High earners are more likely to experience work stress and low moods

To help address these ongoing issues and try and alleviate pressure on the economy and businesses, AXA UK is launching a ‘Mind Health Meter’. The meter is designed to combat the risk of people getting to the point of struggling by helping them understand the state of their mind health, where they are on the meter and how they can shift the dial from struggling to flourishing in a way that works for them.

"It’s concerning that so many people are struggling with their mental health in the UK. Our findings show that not only does this have an impact on these individuals, it also comes at a huge cost to the economy and society as a whole. There are positive signs and it’s good to see the stigma associated with having a mental health condition continuing to decline, but it’s clear that more needs to be done to support people at work and in their everyday life.

As an insurer, AXA not only wants to help resolve issues for our customers, we also want to prevent them from happening in the first place. This is the purpose of the AXA Mind Health Study: to provide unique insights into what affects mind health – for both good and ill. That’s also why we’ve launched the Mind Health Meter, which shows the four states of mind health as defined by our study. This allows people to identify the state of their mind health and offers guidance on how to ‘shift the dial’ to improve their wellbeing and strengthen their ability to cope with challenging and adverse situations.

Our hope is that the AXA Mind Health Study and the Mind Health Meter will go some way to improve people’s mind health and their overall wellbeing, and in turn help us all flourish as both individuals and a society." -Claudio Gienal, CEO at AXA UK & Ireland

"Sadly, it’s likely that everyone will suffer from poor mind health at some point in their life. When I’ve experienced challenging times, it’s always been really important for me to seek help and advice. That’s why I’m proud to be supporting this campaign as AXA UK’s Mind Health Ambassador to help people find the best ways to improve their mind health when they need it. 

The AXA Mind Health Study shows that with the right tools and guidance, shifting the dial and improving how you feel is possible. Keeping active and spending quality time with my family helps me top-up my meter when I’m running low and keeps my mind health in a good place. Different things work for different people but once you identify what works for you, the only way is up." - Amy Conroy, GB Paralympian and AXA Mind Health Ambassador

To view the AXA Mind Health Study and to find a range of helpful advice on how to support good mind health CLICK HERE


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