Research into the attitudes and experiences of over 4,000 British adults, of whom 2,470 are in full or part time work, by AXA PPP healthcare reveals a triple threat to workers’ wellbeing from financial, mental and physical health problems – problems that are pretty prevalent too. Over half (52 per cent) of the workers polled admit to having faced financial difficulties while around a third say they’ve lived with mental ill health (36 percent) or had problems with their physical health (30 per cent).

Mental health: Most workers (81 percent) say that, when they’ve experienced difficulties with their mental health, their physical health has suffered too, while over half (52 percent) admit that their finances have been adversely affected.

Physical health: Similarly, when facing problems with their physical health, 71 percent say that they’ve also experienced difficulties with their mental health, while 40 percent report that their finances have taken a turn for the worse.

Financial health: A sizeable proportion of employees who’ve had financial difficulties say that their mental health (76 percent) and physical health (50 percent) have also been adversely affected.

These findings are supported by a recent NHS Digital report into comorbidity which found that over a third of people with symptoms of a severe common mental disorder also had a chronic physical condition. For example, asthma was twice as prevalent in those living with a mental health condition. Equally, asthma and high blood pressure were associated with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and phobias. Overall, experiencing a chronic physical condition was linked to lower levels of mental wellbeing.**

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services for AXA PPP healthcare, comments: “Our research shows that, when employees are experiencing financial problems or have a mental health or physical health issue, the link between these areas of wellbeing may lead to their negative experience being exacerbated. It’s a potentially toxic mix that calls for careful handling. When considering wellbeing initiatives, employers would be wise to take a holistic approach to enable employees to maintain their mental, physical and financial wellbeing. This may involve providing suitable support to help them manage their problems – such as an employee assistance programme and other online resources and helplines such as those provided by the mental health charity, Mind, and Citizens Advice to assist them with psychological and financial difficulties.

“Being afraid to open up about personal problems – whether they’re work related or not – can seriously affect employee wellbeing. Mood, productivity and engagement can all be disrupted. To help to address this, it’s important for the organisation’s leadership to promote a positive, supportive workplace culture where employees are encouraged to speak up and seek support for the challenges that are proving difficult to overcome. It’s also important for employers to ensure that line managers are suitably trained and supported to recognise and help employees when they’re struggling to cope. If employees appear withdrawn, downbeat or are behaving out of character, managers need to take the lead on engaging with them in an appropriately professional and supportive manner to better understand what’s troubling them and guide them to suitable support.”

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