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One in four workers suffers mental distress due to rising costs

The cost of living crunch is having an impact on more than Australians' wallets. According to new research from Lifeworks, it is also affecting their mental well-being.

LifeWorks’ Mental Health Index shows that one in four Australian workers say inflation is the most significant cause of their stress (26%), followed by the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic (13%) and job loss (10%). The research also reveals more than half of Australian employees (53%) believe stress is the main reason for their declining mental health.

Another area investigated by the report was trust. More than one in ten Australians report a decline in trust between them and their employers, with changes in workplace culture (37%), a perceived change in how employers handle wellbeing (25%), and a change in communication (13%) as reasons for a decline.

Conversely, positive changes in communication, culture and the perception of how work was handled during the pandemic are the top reasons for improved trust between employers and employees.

Some other report findings include the following points:

  • - 34% of Australians have a high mental health risk, 42% have a moderate mental health risk, and 24% have a low mental health risk.

  • - Anxiety and isolation have been the most negative mental health sub-scores for two consecutive years.

  • - 30% feel alone often, and this group has a mental health score nearly 20 points below the national average.

  • -25% of workers identify co-worker relationships as having the most positive impact on their work effort.

Fragile mental health

LifeWorks started measuring Australians' mental health immediately after the pandemic's onset in 2020, surveying 1,000 workers and measuring employed adults' mental health in several dimensions, called sub-scores. The report compares its data against benchmark information collected in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

In 2020, the Index identified a substantial drop in the country's mental health, which fell to 57.8 on a 0 to 100 scale. That meant workers went from an "optimal" situation (above 80) to a "strained" one (between 50 and 79) very rapidly. Since then, there has been a limited recovery, with the score never surpassing 65.

In the report released today, the Index sub-score that measures financial risk declined from 70.1 to 68.8 between June and September. Despite this decline, other sub-scores analysed, such as general psychological health and productivity, balanced the results, keeping the general mental Index score relatively unchanged between June and September (64.3 vs 64.5).

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