Over half of small-business owners experience mental health issues

More than half (56 per cent) of small-business operators say running their own business has led to feelings of anxiety or depression, with nearly half (48 per cent) of all respondents reporting anxiety was largely caused by financial and cashflow concerns, according to a fresh survey conducted by MYOB.

MYOB surveyed 757 Australian small-business operators to understand the extent to which mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, affected the small business community and how much this was directly linked to running a business. Concerningly, 43 per cent of respondents reported that since starting a business, they have experienced some form of mental health condition. This percentage rose to 52 per cent of respondents for business operators aged under 40.

MYOB’s Chief Employee Experience Officer, Helen Lea, is concerned about the connection between the pressures of being in business and mental health.

“We know from previous research that cashflow is a major pressure point for small business*, however, this new data suggests its impact runs much deeper than the books. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Australian economy, and we need to support them. That means creating environments in which they can thrive and thinking of ways we can eliminate the points of stress we know exist, like late payments,” said Lea.

The data found that businesses with more employees are most likely to be affected, with 62 per cent of business operators with between five and nine employees reporting they had experienced a mental health condition, versus 38 per cent of sole traders. In addition, the incidence of stress was higher in businesses with employees; 12 per cent of business owners reported experiencing stress, versus 4 per cent of sole traders.

The survey also drilled into ways of dealing with feelings of anxiety or stress. When asked where respondents are most likely to go for advice when they’re feeling stressed, most replied family (47 per cent), while their GP came second (31 per cent) and friends third (28 per cent).

In terms of how the people they turn to can provide support, nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of small business operators said it would be beneficial for their family and friends to have access to resources about mental health at work. Concerningly, of those who said it would not be beneficial, 11 per cent said it was because they wanted to keep their situation private.

Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Adviser Dr Grant Blashki encouraged business owners who felt stressed, anxious or depressed to seek support.

“While it is normal to feel pressure when running a small business, you don’t have to face the challenges alone,” said Blashki. “Mental health support for small business owners can be as simple as talking to family, friends, peers and co-workers, or their GP, about how they are feeling.”

He said Beyond Blue was developing resources for advisors, family and friends of small business owners to help them play this support role to complement information already available for people who want to create mentally healthy workplaces but aren’t quite sure how.

“Research shows that mentally healthy workplaces attract and keep top talent, get the best out of everyone and provide a strong return on their wellbeing investment,” said Blashki.

“Taking a proactive approach to your own health and wellbeing can assist in overcoming challenges, build healthy relationships and work more productively.”

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