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Four in five small business owners say COVID-19 has hit mental wellbeing

Kalila Sangster
·3-min read
Girl sleeping during work at the office
Two in three SME bosses reported financial worries as having the biggest negative impact on their mental wellbeing in the past 12 months, according to a new study. Photo: Getty

Four in five (82%) UK small business (SME) owners say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental wellbeing, according to new research from small business insurer Simply Business.

A fifth (19%) reported their current mental wellbeing as “bad” while almost half (47%) said they were worried about their mental health, in the study of 765 small business owners.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting Brits’ mental health in different ways, with stress being the most common problem — three in five (62%) small business owners have been affected by stress in the last 12 months.

A third (30%) have struggled with depression in the past year, over half (55%) have suffered from anxiety, and a further 51% have experienced sleep problems.

Over a third (35%) struggle to switch off at the end of the day, one in five (21%) felt it had affected their confidence and 22% said it has impacted personal relationships.

In total, 82% of self-employed people suffered with poor mental health in 2020.

READ MORE: UK businesses investing in artificial intelligence to help with COVID-19 recovery

Additionally, over a quarter (27%) of SME owners have experienced low self-esteem in the past 12 months and a fifth (19%) have struggled with loneliness.

Almost all respondents said that any symptoms of poor mental health have either been caused by or made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Small businesses have been among the hardest hit financially from COVID-19, with the pandemic causing severe disruption to business operations and income.

A third (33%) of small businesses have had to temporarily close their business at various points of the pandemic and 44% are running at a reduced capacity. Just one fifth (21%) have been able to continue normal operations.

Two in three (61%) SME bosses reported financial worries as having the biggest negative impact on their mental wellbeing in the past 12 months.

Some 60% were struggling with not being able to see family or friends, 44% were impacted by uncertainty surrounding their business, and stress was an issue for 48%.

Over a quarter (28%) cited isolation or loneliness as negatively impacting their mental wellbeing over the last year, and 24% said a lack of physical exercise has harmed their mental health.

READ MORE: Almost half a million new UK businesses registered in 2020 despite COVID-19

Looking ahead into 2021, almost half (49%) are worried about the future of their business, while 22% are concerned about their business closing down this year.

However, business owners are taking action to to improve their wellbeing support their mental health in 2021. Two in three (67%) are spending more time outside and in nature where possible, 64% plan to exercise more and a further 64% want to spend more time connecting with friends and family. A third (32%) are planning to read more to improve their wellbeing, while 27% will spend more time gardening.

A quarter will use mindfulness and meditation to support their mental health and 21% will start doing arts and crafts.

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