Work Causing or Exacerbating Mental Ill-Health for 1 in 5 Australians According to New Research

Work Causing or Exacerbating Mental Ill-Health for 1 in 5 Australians According to New Research

SuperFriend, a national mental health organisation that partners with the superannuation and insurance industries, has released results from Australia’s largest workplace mental health survey. It confirms that for many workers, their workplace has caused or exacerbated their mental health condition.

The results also showed clear benefits for organisations that invest in targeted mental health initiatives such as training and support for flexible work arrangements.

10,000 Australian workers were surveyed for the annual Indicators of a Thriving Workplace poll, which measures the current state of mental health and wellbeing in Australian workplaces against a desired state.

The 2019 national workplace mental health and wellbeing index score is 62.7 out of 100 1steady from the previous year.

The survey found that nearly half of all Australian workers are either currently experiencing or have previously experienced a mental health condition. Of those, 43% report their workplaces either caused or aggravated their condition.

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Despite increasing public dialogue on workplace mental health, 57% of workers don’t believe their employer has committed to any tangible actions to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Only 15% of the Australian workforce claim to be receiving solid workplace support to effectively integrate work, family and general life commitments, with those who don’t more likely to find their work ‘really stressful’. 

Job security greatly impacts mental health. The constant fear of being made redundant makes the workplace toxic.”

Quote from survey respondent

Commenting on the findings, SuperFriend CEO, Margo Lydon said: “There is increasing attention on workplace mental health, especially with the Productivity Commission’s draft report quantifying the cost of poor mental health in the workplace at $17 billion a year, making up a huge part of the estimated $51 billion overall cost of mental ill-health and suicide.”

“And yet work can be beneficial for people experiencing a mental health condition if they feel well supported in the workplace. For employers, this is a fantastic opportunity to turn the $17 billion cost of poor mental health and lost productivity into gains for their business and Australia’s economy, creating happier, healthier workers and communities,” she added.

Spotlight: Groups with red flags

The survey found that workers in healthcare and public administration are experiencing the highest levels of stress, at 30% and 28.1% respectively, more than any other industry.

Credit: Natanael Melchor.

Healthcare workers also experience the highest levels of workplace violence (16.8%) and second highest levels of bullying (28.6%).

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The incidence of workers whose current workplace caused their mental health conditions, is double among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers (30.2% vs 15.7%).

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are having a much tougher time at work than others, with significantly higher numbers of workers claiming to have personally experienced toxic behaviours and attitudes such as bullying, sexual assault, discrimination and stigma,” noted Ms Lydon.

The stigma of mental illness is still strong and is used as a weapon against anyone brave enough to mention difficulties.”

Quote from survey respondent

Further, 1 in 4 older workers (55-64 years) with experience of a mental health condition report that it was caused by their current workplace, higher than any other age cohort.

Training and education are crucial

According to the report, the biggest barrier to achieving thriving workplaces is seen to be a lack of appropriate skills amongst managers.

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“Our research suggests that education and training about mental health and wellbeing helps to break down many of these barriers, particularly those related to skill gaps, recognition of the importance of mentally health workplaces and managerial commitment and action,” said Ms Lydon.

Only 12.5% of workers (one in eight) claim to have a workplace culture that encourages open discussion, with evidence that where a workplace has received education on mental health and wellbeing, this number dramatically improves to approximately 50%.

“Australian workers recognise the benefits for employers of investing in mental health and wellbeing and want to see their employers taking action,” added Ms Lydon. 

“They are looking to their business leaders to create a culture of care that enables workers to be productive and bring their best self to work.”

“Now is the time to act!” she concluded.

This media release was submitted by Honner.

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  1. An index score of 100 represents the desired state of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

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