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Press Release
Survey: 60 Percent of US Workers Concerned About Their Mental Health in Pandemic’s Aftermath
09 April, 2021


Amid growing anxiety about the pandemic’s impact on wellbeing, a new survey finds that US workers rank mental and psychological wellbeing as one of their biggest wellness concerns. Despite these worries, The Conference Board survey reveals that participation in programs including mental health resources and Employee Assistance programs has dropped.

On the upside, the nationwide survey found that most respondents continued routine doctor’s visits to some degree during the pandemic—although women struggled more. Employees also report that they aren’t suffering in silence: An overwhelming majority feel their supervisor genuinely cares about their wellbeing—a likely basis for their comfort speaking of wellbeing challenges at work.

Conducted from early to mid-March, the online survey polled more than 1,100 US workers representing a cross-section of people across industries, from lower-level employees to the CEO. Key findings include:  

 

The pandemic’s psychological toll: Workers rank mental wellbeing as one of their biggest concerns.

  • Nearly 60 percent of workers reported concerns about stress and burnout.
  • More than one-third of respondents also expressed concerns about their physical wellbeing, including fear of getting sick.
  • Another one-third worried about social wellness and belonging, such as opportunities to connect with others.
  • Spiritual wellbeing was of least concern, with only 10 percent reporting they were worried about feeling a sense of purpose in what they do.

CEOs’ top concerns varied greatly from those of individual contributors.

  • CEOs were less concerned than lower-level employees about mental/psychological wellbeing:
    • CEOs: 53 percent.
    • Lower-level employees: 76 percent.
  • But they were more concerned about financial wellbeing:
    • CEOs: 33 percent
    • Lower-level employees: 27 percent

 

Age and gender factored into top wellbeing concerns.

  • Millennials are most concerned with mental and psychological wellbeing. As workers earlier in their careers, they are also more concerned than other generations about professional and financial wellbeing. 
  • GenXers were more concerned about social wellness and belonging than other respondents.
  • Baby Boomers are more concerned about physical wellbeing than their generational counterparts.
  • Women were more concerned about spiritual wellbeing and slightly more concerned about physical, professional, and financial wellbeing than men. 
  • Men were slightly more concerned about social wellbeing than women.

 

Despite overwhelming concern for mental/psychological wellbeing, participation in programs that address these issues dropped.

  • In the aggregate, usage of mental health resources and Employee Assistance Programs dropped 4 percent during the pandemic.
    • Only millennials increased usage of these programs:
      • Millennials: +8 percent
      • Generation X: -5 percent
      • Baby Boomers: -4 percent 
  • Usage of online tools increased 6 percent as workers socially distanced.
    • Millennials used online resources significantly more than other generations:
      • Millennials: +19 percent
      • Generation X: +4 percent
      • Baby Boomers: +5 percent
  • Activities for social wellness and belonging, such as celebrations, retreats, and virtual coffee hours increased 4 percent.
    • Women increased use of these activities, while men decreased use:
      • Women: +8 percent
      • Men: -4 percent
  • Usage of all other programs declined, with those for community wellbeing taking the largest hit (-25 percent).
    • Men especially decreased participation in community wellbeing programs, compared to a lesser decrease among women.
      • Women: -24 percent
      • Men: -40 percent
  • One might expect the participation among millennials in programs for career and professional wellbeing to be higher, given their elevated concerns about professional and financial wellbeing. However, usage decreased 2 percent for this population.

“With the wellbeing of so many workers under immense strain, it’s surprising that the use of many programs to support wellness decreased,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President, Human Capital at The Conference Board. “These findings speak to the need for better communication from leaders about the availability of resources, and a rethinking of the ways in which companies offer them.”

 

An overwhelming majority (78 percent) believe their supervisor genuinely cares about their wellbeing.

  • This supportive relationship may be why 62 percent feel comfortable speaking of their wellbeing challenges at work.
  • Unfortunately, nearly one-fifth of workers (18 percent) do not feel comfortable discussing their hardships at work without fear of negative consequences.
  • This includes 19 percent of women who are not comfortable, compared to 14 percent of men.

“Today more than ever, leaders need to understand their teams’ struggles so they can take steps to actively support their wellbeing, engagement, and productivity,” said Amy Lui Abel, PhD, Vice President, Human Capital Research at The Conference Board. “By managing with empathy, leaders can build trust and better understand how to support their employees’ wellbeing.”

Most respondents maintained a health regimen—but CEOs and women struggled.

  • Women: They had difficulty keeping up their regimen to the same degree, likely due to the disparate impact of child and elder care.
  • CEOs: Executives were unable to keep up their health regimen at a higher rate than other levels, with 33 percent reporting they were unable to do what they have normally done (such as annual physicals, dental exams, and preventative tests).
  • One-fifth of respondents overall were unable to maintain their regular health routine, an indicator of possible health issues in COVID-19’s aftermath.

 

Media Contacts

Katie.Puello@tcb.org

 

About The Conference Board

The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org

For further information contact:

Joseph DiBlasi
781.308.7935
Joseph.DiBlasi@conference-board.org

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