According to the Mental Health Index: Everyone’s Mental Health is Worsening as Return to the Workplace Looms Large

According to the latest Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, everyone’s mental health is worsening as the return to the workplace looms large. Stress, depressed mood, feelings of anxiety and risk of PTSD are on the rise once again. Most notable – the data signals an impending trend reversal among female employees, who had seen remarkable mental health improvements since January. Compared to March 2021, women are showing a 33% increase in feelings of anxiety, a 25% increase in stress, and a 23% increase in depressed mood.

Simultaneously, the growing anxiety and stress among 40-59-year-old employees, highlighted in last month’s Mental Health Index, continues to curve upward. This older cohort, which are often mid-level and senior leaders, are showing a worrisome 40% increase in feelings of anxiety in just the past two months.

PTSD is without bias when it comes to age and gender. While the past few months showed slight upticks in PTSD; the risk of PTSD is now up 29% since the end of February 2021 and is 46% higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser CoalitionsOne Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.

“Business as usual is no more,” said Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “The employees who have been working at make-shift kitchen table desks and bedrooms turned temporary offices are not the same employees who fled the workplace in March 2020. The mental health impacts of the past year will linger for some time and cannot be ignored. In fact, just the opposite is true. Workers want employers to help break the stigma of mental health struggles. They want a corporate culture that embraces open dialogue about mental health and an employer that provides a full-spectrum of mental health resources.”

These Mental Health Index findings were released on the heels of a new research report from Total BrainBack to Work: How to Prepare for Five Mental Health Challenges Facing Returning WorkersThe report was created based on an opinion survey of U.S. workers’ attitudes toward heading back to a familiar-yet-unfamiliar work environment. Key findings, which complement the Mental Health Index data and offer keen insights for employers seeking to open long-shuttered doors, include:

  • Two-thirds of American workers say they feel somewhat or extremely anxious about returning to work.
  • More than 20% of workers said they would feel better about returning to work if their employer increased access to mental health resources.
  • Half of respondents said their employer has not done enough to address the mental impacts of COVID-19 on employees.
  • Most (86%) want their employer to build a corporate culture that encourages open dialogue about mental health challenges.

Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, commented, “After more than a year of emotional stress and trauma, employers and employees will never be the same. As we get to the other side of the pandemic, we look forward with both hope and anxiety to a period of renewal, reconnection and reconstruction of our longer-term realities.”

“These findings make it abundantly clear that we need to ensure employers have access to the tools and resources necessary to support their employees’ mental health,” said Daryl Tol, executive vice president, One Mind at Work. “By creating informed, responsive and understanding workplaces, employers can affect real change in their employees’ lives.”

Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association said, “American Health Policy Institute member companies are seeing the increased anxiety and symptoms of stress in employees, highlighted in this latest study. As a result, these large employers have been developing new ways to more smoothly and mindfully transition employees who are returning back to the workplace, while also pioneering new benefit offerings to improve the overall behavioral and mental health of all employees.”

The full Mental Health Index results can be found here

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