New research shows poor mind health in the workplace costs the UK economy £102bn a year

19 March 2024

Posted in Surveys and reports

  • A study by AXA UK shows that poor mind health in the workplace cost the UK economy £102 billion last year – globally £2.1 trillion was lost due to employees’ mind health issues
  • Data from AXA’s fourth annual Mind Health Study reveals over half (53%) of the UK are experiencing an absence of positive wellbeing associated with emotional distress
  • Workplace environment is a significant contributory factor to mind health, with three quarters of UK adults experiencing consequences such as trouble sleeping, stress, lack of confidence and loss of interest

A new study by AXA UK shows that poor mind health in the workplace cost the UK economy £102 billion in 2023. The research also looked at the global impact, with an estimated £2.1 trillion lost last year due to employee’s mind health issues.

The fourth annual AXA Mind Health Study1, a survey of 16,000 people aged 18 to 74 from 16 European, Asian and American countries, was supplemented by economic modelling by the Centre for Business and Economic Research (Cebr)2. This found that around £26 billion was lost to the UK economy from workers taking sick days last year, and a further £57.4 billion from workers being less productive due to work-related mind health conditions. The remainder was lost from workers who chose to leave their jobs altogether.

The research shows that half of UK adults are experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing, with one in five people (20%) admitting to struggling and over a third (33%) saying they are languishing. It also reveals that an increasing number of people in the UK are suffering from a mental health condition, (37% up from 33% in 2022), and while 24% of the global population claim to be flourishing, this figure drops to 18% in the UK1.

Workplace environment is a huge factor affecting people’s mind health, and the study shows that three quarters of the British population is experiencing consequences such as trouble sleeping, stress, lack of confidence and loss of interest due to work1.

Habits at work such as making comparisons with peers are making the issue worse, with the UK workforce regularly comparing themselves to their peers. Job performance, work ethic and dress sense are among the top things people judge themselves on compared with their colleagues3, with 51% admitting it negatively impacts their mental health.

The AXA Mind Health Study highlights the importance of businesses making it a priority to offer support to employees who may be struggling, as those who have good mind health are more likely to be engaged and perform.

AXA' research shows that those who believe their company cares for the mental health of its employees and is taking action to help them are almost twice as likely to have flourishing mind health1. Mental health benefits are valued most by young workers, with 72% of 18–24-year-olds stating that mental health employee benefits are important when it comes to deciding whether to stay with their current employer1.

In the UK we are seeing a growing number of people battling with poor mind health and, as people spend a large proportion of their lives working, a supportive workplace environment plays a critical role in addressing this.  Research shows that workplace habits are a significant factor, like people comparing themselves unfavourably with their colleagues. The poor mind health associated with this behaviour comes at a huge cost to the UK and global economies, and employers have a duty to respond to this for the benefit of their employees and the wider society.

As an employer, we know that the environment you create for people to work in is important. At AXA we strive to create a workplace that fosters positive mind health by providing mental health support and strong employee networks. This helps prevent people from struggling with their mind health, enables them to recognise when they need support and provides them with tools to enable them to move towards a more positive state of mind.

We hope the AXA Mind Health Study will shine a spotlight on the impact that poor mind health is having and demonstrate why identifying mind health issues early can be beneficial not only for individuals, but businesses too.

Tara Foley, CEO at AXA UK & Ireland
Headshot of Tara Foley, Chief Executive Officer of AXA UK and Ireland

A 20-year-old today has lived their formative years not only in a global pandemic but also in a time of geopolitical instability, a cost of living crisis, job insecurity as well as growing concerns about climate change. If living through lockdowns wasn't difficult enough, there have also been huge changes in technology, social media and cultural norms.

It’s little surprise that many 18-to-34-year-olds feel extremely anxious, stressed and alone. The message from the Mind Health Study is that more young people need to be able to access professional healthcare services that can help protect their mental wellbeing at such an important period of their lives.

Dr Alex George, Youth Mental Health Ambassador, and former NHS Doctor

The AXA Mind Health Study is conducted in collaboration with IPSOS and aims to identify mental health and wellness issues in society to help build solutions to mitigate them.

1AXA Mind Health Study was conducted between 15 November – 15 October 2023 in 16 countries among representative samples of the population aged 18 – 75 in each country (1,000 in each)

2Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) looks at data and statistics from 16 different studies and reports with UK participants. Data from external sources such as OECD statistics and local statistical agencies were used to estimate the average number of sick days taken by workers in each country

3Additional research for the Mind Health Study campaign was conducted by One Poll between 4 March – 8 March 2024 among 2,000 UK employed adults

The AXA Mind Health Index is a measuring tool developed by AXA to assess the current mental wellbeing of individuals, communities and countries, pinpointing areas of weakness and outlining ways these can be addressed. It divides people into four categories: Flourishing, Getting By, Languishing and Struggling.