Work-related stress and anxiety appear to be on the rise as GPs report a growth in the number of employees seeking help for these issues. 

Since the pandemic began, a rising number of employees have approached GPs for help regarding mental health issues linked to the workplace, new research by Perkbox indicates.

Around two-thirds of GPs questioned (68 per cent) said they have seen an increase in people seeking medical advice over the last three months, with four in five medical professionals expecting this problem to worsen.

Young people, aged between 16-24, were shown to be suffering with work-related mental health problems the most, with the number turning to GPs for help rising by almost two-thirds (64 per cent).

However, there has been a substantial rise in the number of patients facing these issues across the board.

Similarly, the number of employees aged between 25 and 34 seeking help has increased by over half (54 per cent) whilst staff between the ages of 34 and 49 have also been affected, rising by two-fifths (43 per cent).

This mental health crisis is having wider impacts on employee health too including disrupting sleep patterns (54 per cent), diet (51 per cent) and, for some, leading to increased alcohol consumption (32 per cent).

As such, employers are being encouraged to take greater responsibility in supporting employees and their health.

Notably, the top three reasons causing employees anxiety included financial insecurity, returning to the workplace and increased workload.

Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Psychology, University of Manchester, described the correlation between stress and work, especially during the COVID-19 crisis:

Pre-pandemic stress at work was the leading cause of long-term sickness absence, with the HSE reporting in 2019 that 57 per cent of long-term absence was due to stress, anxiety and depression.

The pandemic has obviously exacerbated this trend, with people worrying about their job and financial security, returning to work with Covid still active, and the prospect of fewer people in the workplace (due to downsizing) meaning heavier and unmanageable workloads.

The fact that GPs are seeing this in their surgeries is worrying, but important in alerting employers and government to recognise and develop strategies to deal with it. The mental wellbeing of employees should be a strategic issue for all employers.

Key areas identified for improvement on the part of businesses included offering flexible working hours (42 per cent), providing manager training on supporting mental wellbeing (37 per cent) and the provision of wellbeing tools and information (30 per cent).

This, the study states, will not only have a positive impact on employee wellbeing but will also bring benefits for businesses with employees being signed off work due to mental health struggles, resulting in lost productivity and a decline in end-customer satisfaction.

Gautam Sahgal, CEO of Perkbox, added:

The pandemic has challenged employees to re-evaluate what they really want from their roles. We know that they need and want more when it comes to wellbeing support at work. Alongside a better work-life balance, giving people a choice of health-focused activities and tools can help them prioritise their mental health day to day.


*The research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Perkbox during September 2021. It surveyed 252 GPs between 9th September – 15th September 2021 and 2,017 full-time employees between 9th September and 13th September.