Mental health issues now most common illness in the workplace


Mental health issues now most common illness in the workplace

Two in five workers suffer anxiety and stress

Karen Gallagher, protection director of Friends First
Karen Gallagher, protection director of Friends First

Mental health issues are now the most common illness in the workplace.

A survey has revealed that almost two in five workers say they are suffering from stress and anxiety.

Mental health issues have pushed cancer and back pain into second and third place for workplace illnesses.

Some 38pc of workers say they are under stress, according to the survey commissioned by Friends First.

The survey, conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes, found cancer in second place as a workplace illness, with 33pc of workers citing it, followed by chronic back pain, which is suffered by 32pc of workers.

Nearly half of millennials in the workforce say that they have experienced mental illness, according to the Friends First survey.

Almost half of under-35s say they have taken extended sick leave of a week or more due to stress or anxiety.

Some four out of 10 of all workers surveyed say they have taken extended sick leave due to an accident or illness.

The average sick leave period was 14 weeks.

However, a quarter of employees say they would not be paid for a period of sick leave, even for one month or less.

Some 64pc of workers said they would be paid for up to one month, but this drops significantly to one-third for sick leave stretching beyond six months.

Friends First said its claims data shows that the length of the average income protection claim is five years, highlighting a potentially major income gap for workers who are unable to do their job through illness.

However, most of the workers surveyed described themselves as being “reasonably healthy” or “very healthy”, with just 10pc saying they are less healthy than they would like to be.

Half of workers say that they are regular savers, with €335 cited as the average monthly saving.

The top purpose cited for saving is for “a rainy day”.

About half of workers say that if left without pay due to illness, they would rely on their savings.

However, they would run out of money within three months and would need to seek out an alternative source of financial support.


Family and friends were identified as the next port of call, with many workers saying that they would turn to their nearest and dearest.

Karen Gallagher, protection director of Friends First, said the research showed mental health issues had the potential to affect us all and the effects of stress and anxiety knew no boundaries when it came to age, gender or profession.

“It is also concerning to see that, despite a strong level of awareness around the potential to be without an income in the event of extended sick leave of over one week, a large cohort of workers remain financially unprepared,” she said.

Irish Independent

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