Two-thirds of young people say work damages their mental health

More than half of UK workers say their job negatively impacts their mental health, young people more likely to be affected, according to research by employment charity Workwhile shared exclusively with Spotlight on the new statesman.

57% of respondents said their job has a negative impact on their mental health, while 29% said their job has had a positive impact on their mental health.

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Workwhile, which is supported by the progressive think tank Institute for Public Policy Research, has commissioned polling firm Opinium to conduct the research. It took place from 14 to 16 June 2023 on a sample of 2,077 adults.

Younger respondents were more likely to report negative mental health impacts for 63% of 18-34 year olds, compared with 59% of 35-49 year olds, 53% of 50-64 year olds and just 30% of those over 65.

[See also: Well-being at work is key to growing the economy]

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Research suggests that employees also value work-life balance over pay: nearly half (49%) of all respondents said it’s more important, while 12% favor earnings. However, men are more likely than women to prefer higher earnings to a more sustainable balance 15% to 9% and young people more than the elderly 17% of 18-34 year olds with 5% of over-65s.

The survey also found that one in five workers (21%) are encouraged to work unpaid overtime, with Londoners facing the most pressure to do so, at 35%. Comparatively, 17% of people in the north of England, 21% in the Midlands, 20% in the south, 16% in Wales, 20% in Scotland and 9% in Northern Ireland said this was the case .

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Respondents generally reported fewer good quality jobs now than when they first started, 40% thought this, while 13% believed the opposite. People in the north of England were the most likely to say that there are currently fewer good jobs available.

[See also: The NHS cant help the mentally ill can influencers?]

Work is a key factor in people’s health. The Health Foundation reports that spending more time in low-quality work is associated with worse health outcomes and can trigger stress, which can lead to other medical conditions. Job quality can be measured in many ways, including types of employment contracts, workplace support, job security and stability, and work-life balance.

Last month, a report from the human resources organization Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that job quality had declined for many people over the past four years. During that time, UK workers have become more likely to think that work is purely transactional and less likely to say that their work excites them, is useful or has a positive impact on their mental health.

Data from the Office for National Statistics show that more than 2.5 million people are currently out of work due to long-term illness, an increase of half a million on pre-pandemic figures. The number of estimated salaried employees decreased by 136,000 between March and April 2023. There has also been an increase in back and neck conditions.

Long-term illnesses also account for over a quarter of the 28% of total economic inactivity in the UK. Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, recently told the BBC that jobless people are bad for business and the economy, resulting in a lower supply of workers, business closures, lower productivity and less competition between firms .

Workwhile is calling on the government to invest in employee mental health by creating a Right to Disconnect law, which would make it easier for workers to unplug, especially when working from home.

The Labor Party has previously said it will introduce this law as part of its employment reforms. Angela Rayner, deputy party leader, said the right to shut down would mean bosses would not be able to contact workers outside of working hours by phone or email. Similar legislation was enacted in France in 2017.

[See also: Take back control has become we cant control]

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