New figures from the leading mental health app Wysa show that the UK mental health crisis is worse than estimated in working people. Over one in three (35%) working people suffer moderate to severe depression or severe anxiety – three times higher than the estimated UK adult prevalence.
Official figures point to one in six of us struggling with mental health, up from one in 10 before the Covid pandemic.
According to the latest research from Wysa, 11.3 million adults should be getting some therapy or support for moderate to severe anxiety or depression. The latest Health & Safety Executive report points to 914,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2021–2022, but this research suggests a much greater issue.
The rate of moderate to severe anxiety or depression is higher among younger people – nearly half (44%) under 24 demonstrate symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety, compared to 27% over 54. The same pattern is seen when it comes to depression. Twice as many under 24s show scores suggesting moderate to severe depression as those over 55 (46% vs 21%). Overwork, the challenges of the economy, and difficulties affording rent or houses are all taking a toll on the next generation.
These findings correlate with the recent Institute of Fiscal Studies report that stated the number of working-age new disability benefit claimants has doubled in the past year. Around a third of new claims were for mental health conditions. Among claimants under 25, that figure rose to 70%.
Worryingly, half (52%) of people using Wysa who screened as suffering symptoms of moderate to severe depression or anxiety at levels requiring further investigation and treatment have not spoken to a healthcare professional. The primary reason is that they don’t think their symptoms are serious enough.
Women, in particular, play down their symptoms. Almost half (48%) of women who experience symptoms of moderate to severe depression or anxiety have not spoken to a professional because they don’t think it’s serious enough, versus men, one in three (33%) who think the same. Or they worry a health professional won’t think it’s serious enough – 21% said this was a worry.
Stigma prevails in men, and we see a clear gender divide. One in three men (31%) who need help have not sought it because they report being too embarrassed, compared to a quarter of females (25%). A quarter takes time off work citing physical health, and 22% take annual leave, fearful of giving the real reason. Only 11%
Two-thirds (62%) of Londoners with clinically significant symptoms have spoken to someone, but only a third (31%) in Northern Ireland. A quarter (24%) of those in the East of England have tried to speak to someone but didn’t get the help they needed.
But there could be a solution and an appetite for a digital option. Over two in five (43 %) would prefer to talk to a mental health app, with clinically proven self-help resources tailored to their needs, rather than their GP, and a half (53 %) would choose an app over a therapist. Wysa offers continuous conversational care, supporting the entire mental health care pathway at referral, during waits, as a CBT treatment, as well as post-discharge support and ongoing access.
Ross O’Brien, managing director of UK, Wysa, says: “Currently, the burden falls on the NHS to solve the mental health crisis. But we can see that employees are struggling more than the average population. We owe it to our workforce to find a different solution to addressing mental health problems. The 11 million workers who need support for anxiety and depression have access to it through a tool or system that works for them. A digital front door to support, services and therapy that removes the barriers to mental health support altogether.”
Nicky Main, UK and Europe clinical lead, Wysa adds: “The fact that some people would rather speak to an app than a therapist demonstrates that it is important to have options available that suit not only personal preference but the needs people have when it comes to convenience and accessibility.”