COVID-19: 80% of small business owners experience poor mental health

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Exhausted businesswoman having a headache in modern office. Mature creative woman working at office desk with spectacles on head feeling tired. Stressed casual business woman feeling eye pain while overworking on desktop computer.
The COVID-19 crisis appears to have exacerbated the problem of poor mental health amongst small business owners. Photo: Getty

A mental health crisis is brewing in the UK’s small businesses, as a lack of support and cash flow concerns related to the coronavirus take their toll.

Charity Mental Health UK today released research carried out with small business lender iwoca that showed that four in five small business owners report experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year.

Inability to focus (66%) is most commonly reported by small business owners, followed by anxiety (64%) and disrupted sleep (63%). Almost a quarter (24%) have panic attacks and 37% experience symptoms of depression.

When asked whether they’ve experienced issues with their mental health since the pandemic began, over one third (35%) have experienced panic attacks and half have experienced symptoms of depression. More than three quarters (78%) of SME owners said they’ve been worried about cash flow during the pandemic — the most significant concern out of all the respondents.

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The figures also suggest there is a slight gender disparity between SME owners, with 86% of female business owners experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year, compared to 77% of male business owners.

In order to tackle this, Mental Health UK is working with iwoca to develop a tailored mental health support product for small business owners. The tailored support will explore how being a small business owner impacts mental wellbeing, and will include providing all small business owners with practical tools, access to support networks and trained mental health specialists.

Brian Dow, CEO of Mental Health UK, said: “At Mental Health UK we know that when it comes to mental health support, a one-size-fits-all approach will not do. We are thrilled to be working with iwoca to launch new support designed for small business owners, which is accessible and relevant to their needs.”

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James Dear, co-founder of iwoca added: “We have made so much progress as a society in promoting the importance of good mental health. But, despite the acute and specific challenges small business owners face, we have not seen the same attention paid to their specific needs.”

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