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No improvement to Britons’ mental health; uncertainty about wage cuts and job loss remains a factor

Morneau Shepell's Mental Health Index™ reveals healthcare employees see some improvement in mental health; other essential workers see their mental health decline

LONDON, June 3, 2020 – Morneau Shepell, a leader in integrated HR solutions, today released its May 2020 Mental Health Index™ results. Measuring against a benchmark of 75, employees whose salaries were reduced in May reported negative mental health scores (-17.8), similar to those who recently lost their jobs (-17.3). Those who experienced a reduction in salary may have slightly worse mental health scores due to the uncertainty of their future, whereas those who recently lose their jobs may have a temporary cushion of a severance package. For context, 61.0 per cent of U.K. respondents indicated that they remained employed at the same income level, while 35.1 per cent indicated either a reduction in hours or salary. Meanwhile, 4.0 per cent reported recent job loss, up from 2.9 per cent in April.

People in households with five or more adults have the lowest Mental Health Index™ scores of any group (-17.9 compared to the benchmark of 75). This group declined from where they were in April (-14.9). The main factors affecting this group’s mental health include the risk of exposing older loved ones to virus; the return of adult children; multiple adults working from home; or having more than one adult being exposed to risk by going in and out of the home.

Overall, the May results showed Britons’ mental health holding steady. The Mental Health Index™ shows that in May, Britons had a mental health score of -14.0, unchanged from April’s score, which marked the greatest decline in the mental health of Britons for the past three years. The mental health of the population as a whole is equivalent to the bottom one per cent of the benchmark.

Impacted industries, non-healthcare essential workers show signs of strain

Workers’ mental health varied by industry when comparing to the benchmark. On the low end of the scale, utilities (-23.2); retail trade (-17.3); and administrative and support services (-16.3) continued to see declines in worker mental health. Of those groups, workers in the retail trade face uncertain futures as many parts of the country remain on lockdown, while administrative support personnel may be cracking under the strain of working remotely. Utility workers are continuing to work as usual – potentially at risk of exposure to the virus – but they are not as visible and as such do not receive the same level of much-deserved public displays of gratitude and societal support as many other essential workers. Meanwhile, respondents who worked in transportation and warehousing; health care and social assistance; arts, entertainment and recreation; and real estate, rental and leasing saw the greatest improvements.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Mental Health Index™ shows the devastating impact that ongoing disruption can have on the quality of British workers’ mental health," said Philip Mullen, managing director, U.K. and Europe. "While we’re seeing early signs of hope in certain areas, we are in this for the long-term, which is a cause for concern as the virus and its impact on the economy continue.”

Employees who had access to an employee assistance program had better Mental Health IndexTM scores (-13.2) than those who did not (-14.8) compared to the benchmark of 75. “The good news is that support employers provide to their workforce matters,” noted Mullen. “The data shows that very clearly.”

Workers gradually accepting a prolonged battle

The Mental Health Index™ also shows deteriorating confidence that the personal disruption caused by the pandemic will end relatively soon. In April, 20 per cent of workers believed that the disruption of COVID-19 would have ended by June 2020. By early May, however, only 12 per cent believed this. Now, 27 per cent of respondents (the largest group) are preparing for the disruption to end no earlier than January 2021 (an increase from just 13 per cent in April 2020).

Fear of losing loved ones remain highest concerns

The Mental Health Index™ also measured specific concerns and fears related to the pandemic. The most pervasive concerns affecting Britons' mental health remain:

  • losing a loved one (34 per cent);
  • the financial impact of the pandemic (28 per cent);
  • becoming ill (25 per cent); and
  • uncertainty around how the virus will impact family and relationships (21 per cent).

“The Mental Health Index™ is critical in helping us understand changes to mental health over time. The pandemic is not a temporary issue. It is a major life and economic shift that will have ups and downs,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “We need to be aware of potential risk to ensure support is available to those in need. The slight improvement in May is encouraging. We also need to prepare for the impact of the second and perhaps third wave, which may have an even more profound impact than the first wave.”

Morneau Shepell will continue publishing the Mental Health Index™ on a monthly basis. It will assess changes in mental health and the issues that Britons are most anxious about as the situation and outlook evolves during and after the pandemic. 

About the Mental Health Index™
The monthly survey by Morneau Shepell was conducted from April 30 to May 11, 2020, with 2,000 respondents in total. All respondents reside in the United Kingdom and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The margins of error for the survey are+/- 3.2 per cent, valid 19 times out of 20. The full can be found

The Mental Health Index™ is owned by Morneau Shepell – the wellbeing company that acquired LifeWorks in 2018.

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries. For more information, visit


Heather MacDonald
Morneau Shepell

Mike Jurs