The UK has the highest level of mental ill-health in Europe but the pandemic has led to a reduction in the stigma around mental health, according to the AXA Mind Health and Wellbeing study.
The study looks at the foundations of mental well-being and is based on the responses of 11,000 people in 11 countries and territories in Europe and Asia. It provides a detailed picture of how people fared mentally at the height of the pandemic and beyond and aims to act as an essential resource to support individuals, businesses, healthcare professionals and policymakers as they develop their approach to good mind health.
According to the AXA Mind Health Index, the UK has the highest prevalence of mental health conditions in Europe, with two out of every five people, or 37 per cent, experiencing at least one condition and nearly a quarter, or 24 per cent, struggling. However, the data suggests that attitudes toward mental health are shifting in a more positive direction. According to the findings, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst in helping to de-stigmatise mental health conditions in the UK, with more people able to have open conversations about their own struggles.
49 per cent of Brits also feel that they are better able to acknowledge when they may need support and 46 per cent reported feeling more compassionate to others compared to pre-pandemic.
The UK’s insight suggests empathy, kindness and openness at work has increased – with 29 per cent saying they’ve been more open about their own mental health with colleagues and 55 per cent saying they’ve been kinder towards colleagues over the past two years.
The study also highlights some of the challenges associated with providing mental health care. The public sector is under unprecedented strain, which has had a significant impact on people’s mental health. This is reflected in perceptions of a lack of support, with less than a quarter agreeing that the UK’s public healthcare system supports people with mental health conditions, compared to 46 per cent who disagree.
Employers are also not providing enough support with only 40 per cent of people reporting that their workplace currently provides good mental health support. The data suggests that providing mental health support in the workplace not only benefits the organisation, but it also benefits wider society too and can play a key role in alleviating the strain on the public healthcare system.
But the covid-19 pandemic appears to have improved many organisations’ approaches to wellbeing, with more than half of people in the UK reporting that the culture at their workplace has become more empathetic since the pandemic. This has resulted in increased workforce productivity and happiness: 45 per cent are more motivated, 38 per cent are more productive, 32 per cent perform better, and 28 per cent are happier in their jobs.
AXA UK&I CEO Claudio Gienal says: “While our new research shows that the UK’s workplace culture is becoming kinder and more empathetic, many organisations still need to do more to ensure they’re providing enough mental health support to their workforce or making sure their employees know what’s available. The pandemic has posed many challenges, but one positive is that it has allowed us to have more open conversations about mental health at work. Leaders should be using this opportunity to look at the support they’re providing and where gaps may be.
“As an insurer, we strongly believe that our duty is not confined to just stepping in when things go wrong, and we hope our AXA Mind Health Study can act as an essential resource to support individuals, businesses, healthcare professionals and policymakers as they develop their approach to good mind health.
“Our study shows that organisations which support the mental health of their employees will not only benefit from a happier, healthier and more productive workforce, they will benefit wider society too. It really is a win-win for everyone.”
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