Younger Australians and women most likely to seek mental health support due to COVID-19
Sydney June 09, 2020
Mental health warning signs are on the rise, with younger Australians and women, especially those working in retail or hospitality, most likely to seek support according to new research from life insurer MetLife Australia.
MetLife Australia commissioned research during the COVID-19 outbreak to better understand the drivers behind mental health and wellness, and the correlation between employer response to the pandemic and an individual’s well-being.
Almost half (44%) of respondents say their mental health is worse now compared to pre-COVID-19, and there has been a sharp increase in people seeking help (33%, up 18% since March). Most commonly, people are turning to partners, friends and family for support. Those aged < 35 years are even more likely to be seeking mental health support (47%), as are women (37%) and those living alone (42%).
While many are looking to others for support, there is still a fifth (22%) of people who say they are struggling to open up to others about how they are feeling due to COVID-19.
Half of those surveyed claim COVID-19 has impacted their finances and 44% say their mental health is worse now compared to pre Covid-19.
That said, there has been some easing of financial concerns, with less people now reporting they ‘strongly agree’ they will suffer from ‘extreme financial hardship’, down to 7% from 12% in March.
Chesne Stafford, Chief Customer and Marketing Officer at MetLife Australia said that, while there was a clear mental health challenge facing Australians, there were also positive signs.
“Levels of physical activity and work satisfaction have increased, and severity of financial stress has eased since March. This is a good sign that people are mostly managing to weather the situation, and are finding support – whether financial or mental health related – when needed. We expect these trends will continue as social distancing restrictions are rolled back.
“We’ve also seen in the research that there is a strong correlation between employers’ COVID-19 responses and individuals’ feelings of good general health and wellbeing. As restrictions begin to ease and people start to think about heading back to the office, there is an opportunity for employers to increase their communication with employees and support them through this transition to support their mental health,” Ms Stafford said.
Margo Lydon, CEO of mental health organisation SuperFriend, echoes these comments, saying:
“We have also seen a significant impact on mental health as the pandemic has unfolded, and know that financial uncertainty and job security are contributing factors. However, it is encouraging to see that people are seeking support and that employers are playing an active role in supporting their people. We know that Employee Assistance Programs, online tools and resources such as those we offer, and clinical support through psychologists and other medical professionals provide vital services to people in need. It is also encouraging to see mental health becoming a much more open conversation in both workplaces and the general community. It’s fantastic to see employers showing leadership and driving this conversation. We know that early intervention leads to better outcomes, so the earlier someone seeks support the better.”
Financial providers also have a role to play. Access to investment options, tools and financial advice, and information from super fund managers can all help Australians manage their financial strain and accompanying mental health concerns.
Ms Stafford also said: “Financial wellbeing is a crucial factor in reducing mental health related issues, particularly for the harder-hit young Australians and women. By providing clear advice and tools to consumers, financial providers can help their customers navigate this difficult time and come out of the pandemic feeling supported and financially secure.”
Read the second phase of the COVID-19 Research today.