More than half of small businesses experienced a decline in their mental health because of the pandemic, but less than one in three reached out
In light of World Mental Health day (10 October), new research found that 55 per cent of small business owners said the coronavirus pandemic had the most significant negative impact on their mental health, yet less than a third sought professional help.
A survey by The Accountancy Partnership revealed that of those who reported covid to be the key factor, two-thirds said it had a moderate to severe impact on their mental health.
Many small business owners cited the numerous lockdowns, restrictions and general uncertainty posed by covid as some of the reasons why they experienced poor mental health.
Less than a third of SMEs sought professional help
Two in five (40%) said that being unable to provide their product or service as planned was a primary fear, while nearly a third (30%) reported anxiety over being unable to pay rent or their mortgage.
Other reasons given that related to the pandemic included letting suppliers down (8%), failing to make business rent or mortgage payments (13%) and not being able to pay staff wages (11%).
Despite the alarming number of self-employed people who said their mental health had declined, a separate study by SME finance provider, iwoca, found that less than a third (30%) had sought professional help from a councillor or therapist.
According to the survey, lack of information related to tailored support was the biggest reason given for not accessing support, with a quarter (24%) reported they did not know that specific help for small businesses existed.
3 in 5 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
The poll, of 1,000 small business owners, also revealed that although restrictions have now eased, three in four (72%) are still worried about cash flow and more than half (55%) are concerned about temporarily having to close their business.
In addition, more than a third (36%) reported experiencing anxiety, while one in five (20%) showed symptoms of depression several times a month.
Overall, 61 per cent of small business owners reported experiencing at least one symptom of poor mental health several times a month – an increase from 57 per cent in January 2021.
Seema Desai, chief operations officer at iwoca, said: “Our research lifts the curtain on the impact that running a business can have on the mental health of SME owners; and the pressures that many of them face have worsened throughout the pandemic.
SME owners urged to ‘take control’ of their mental health
“So we must do everything we can to ensure our coffee shops, hairdressers and electricians can access the right support – tailored to them – to help them cope with the challenges that running a business can foster.”
Liam Murphy, managing director at The Accountancy Partnership, added that the firm’s own research showed that Brexit and the general strains of running a business were also key factors in poor mental health among small business owners.
He said: “This World Mental Health Day, we encouraged SME owners to take control over their mental wellbeing and be confident that nobody is alone in finding that running a business can be mentally straining.
“It would be positive to see more entrepreneurs openly discussing mental health, offering support to peers and removing the stigma around mental wellbeing in business.”