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17 May 2023

Mental Health Awareness Week: survey highlights the alarming levels of anxiety in the UK

Mental Health Awareness Week: survey highlights the alarming levels of anxiety in the UK

This week (15 – 21 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week which is promoted by The Mental Health Foundation (MHF). This year’s theme is Anxiety; a naturally occurring response to perceived danger which manifests itself as worry, apprehension and unease. If left unchecked, anxiety can become a damaging emotion leading to a deterioration in mental health.

The Mental Health foundation commissioned Opinium to undertake an online survey of 6,000 UK adults in March 2023 to try to establish the occurrence, causes and the ways people were coping with anxiety.

The study found that almost three quarters (73%) of those surveyed had experienced anxiety within the two weeks previous. Of those, over half (58%) said it stopped them doing everyday activities. Whilst anxiety is a natural emotion designed to protect us, if it becomes persistent or excessive, it can inhibit normal behaviour and sometimes lead to physical symptoms such as insomnia, stomach-ache, sickness, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath.

Key causes of anxiety

It’s important to recognise that experiencing anxiety is perfectly normal, but also to not let it affect your daily life. Some key causes of anxiety are:

  • Major life events such as moving house, starting a new job, having a baby or getting married
  • Exams or tests
  • Financial worries (especially prevalent during the cost-of-living crisis)
  • Relationship difficulties (family, friends, work)
  • Health problems
  • Excess alcohol/drugs
  • Loneliness or isolation
  • Social media
  • Phobias

Anxiety can be managed (or tolerated) by most people, but there has been a significant increase in people feeling anxious about normal activities since the pandemic. This has led to increased avoidance of doing everyday activities such as going to school or work, meeting people, shopping, etc. which is out of context with normal behaviour.

Anxiety coping mechanisms

The MHF study comes on the back of the news that the UK is now experiencing the highest numbers of economically inactive people, with the number of people off work due to long term sickness now at over a staggering 2,500,000 people. Organisations are now focusing on educating people in ways to cope with anxiety, some of which include:

  • Limiting social media use and exposure to the news
  • Talking about your problems with someone
  • Limiting consumption of alcohol and consumption of drugs
  • Focusing your spare time on a hobby
  • Physical exercise

To find out about more ways to cope with anxiety, click here.

How KPI helps to alleviate anxiety amongst its employees

KPI Recruiting now employs people in nine offices across nine different sectors all over the UK, so one of the key goals for HR Director Amanda Heywood is making sure everyone is happy. “KPI have introduced a number of initiatives to help improve staff wellbeing and reduce anxiety since the pandemic,” said Amanda. “We have a specific breakout area with a bar, pool table & coffee machine to help people switch off at breaks and lunchtimes. We’ve also created separate office spaces so people can work quietly away from the hustle and bustle of the main office if needed.”

Employee Engagement

Amanda, who is qualified to CIPD Level 5 in HR and a member of the South Cheshire & North Staffordshire CIPD Committee, says this year’s focus at KPI is increasing employee engagement. “We have set up a group which includes selected people at different levels of seniority to discuss what the business can do to improve engagement from all our employees,” said Amanda. “As a recruitment business we HAVE to focus on people, and we believe that the more engaged our staff are, the happier they are, the more productive they become and the more likely they are to stay.

Another of Amanda’s initiatives is an Open Door Day. “I also run an ‘HR Open Door Day’ once a quarter where employees can come to chat with me confidentially in person or on the phone about any work problems they have, which has helped us identify some areas for improvement.”

Interested in joining the KPI team? Find out more here.

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