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WORKERS STILL FEAR TALKING ABOUT THEIR MENTAL HEALTH

Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, according to figures from mental health charity Mind.
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02 September 2019 |  Herpreet Kaur Grewal



What's more, up to 300,000 people with mental health problems lose their jobs each year – a much higher rate than job loss among those with a physical health problem. 

Now, a survey of more than 2,000 workers older than 18 –conducted by market research agency Opinium -– has founs that more than half of all workers have struggled at some point with mental wellbeing.

The study, carried out with Warwick University, also found that many of those who have struggled with their mental wellbeing have never told an employer (67 per cent).

Struggling with mental health problems remains a topic that people feel uncomfortable talking about at work. Three in 10 sufferers said they did not take time off when they struggled with their mental wellbeing because they wanted to keep it to themselves. This compares with just 11 per cent of those experiencing physical ill-health not taking time off for this reason.

Only two-fifths (41 per cent) of workers felt they could talk openly to their employers about their mental health and wellbeing despite three-fifths (62 per cent) of senior managers being happy for employees to talk openly about these issues.

Even though there were concerns about time taken off for mental wellbeing, those who did said that the time they took to rest and recover helped them feel much better on returning to work (53 per cent), and improved their productivity (59 per cent). 

Although time off helped, 54 per cent still felt pressure to return to work too early – suggesting that employers need to make it clear that employees should take time off for their mental wellbeing when they need to, as this can help to reduce presenteeism.

Separately, a major study at the University of Chicago found that air pollution could be causing mental health problems later in life.

The study published in the journal PLOS Biology analysed health data from 152 million people in the US and Denmark over 11 years and found that “air pollution is significantly associated with increased risk of psychiatric disorders”.

The study stated that “pollutants affect the human brain via neuroinflammatory pathways that have also been shown to cause depression-like phenotypes in animal studies”.

The researchers found that the strongest predictor for bipolar disorder diagnosis, after a population’s ethnicity composition, was air quality.

The researchers said: “Far fewer studies have explored the links between physical environments and mental illnesses with a small subset of these specifically focused on environmental pollution or its constituent toxicants. Yet concern has been growing about the diverse negative health effects of air pollution, raising the possibility that air quality may play an important role in mental health and cognitive function.” 

Emma Potter