Stat of the day: Mental health in the legal profession

By Angela Matthews

The following statistics come from a study conducted by Lawcare, a support charity for the legal profession, earlier this year. They asked over 1,000 legal professionals including lawyers, barristers and legal executives in the UK about their experiences of stress in their workplaces. The following are some of the statistics:

  • 75 per cent of lawyers are more stressed now than they were five years ago;
  • 70 per cent said that their working environment was stressful;
  • 63 per cent felt that they are not working to the standard that they want to achieve;
  • 47 per cent occasionally felt at ‘breaking point’;
  • 45 per cent said they do not get enough support;
  • 31 per cent drink more than the recommended units of alcohol;
  • 14 per cent take prescription drugs each day to help cope with stress.

Reasons cited for stress included:

  • Heavy workload;
  • Poor management;
  • Not feeling appreciated;
  • Unattainable targets;
  • Long hours;
  • Poor pay;
  • Job insecurity.

Lawcare’s press release said, “Lawyers are, as a rule, high achievers who have high expectations of themselves. They do, therefore, have to be careful that they do not become stressed as a result of trying to live up to those expectations.”

I thought I should end on a positive note – 45 per cent of respondents said that, despite it being stressful, where they work is friendly. But then I thought that’s around 550 legal professionals who are working in an environment that they think is unfriendly. So maybe that’s not so positive after all. So, instead, I’m going for… it’s nearly Christmas!

Stat of the day: More stress

By Angela Matthews

Continuing with Friday’s ‘stat of the day’ theme of stress, AXA have also released some survey results (reported here). AXA surveyed 500 Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and found that, although 48 per cent of employees feel stressed at work at least 2-3 times per week, 63 per cent of those organisations do not provide training for their managers on how to recognise the signs of stress, anxiety or depression among staff. Additionally, 73 per cent of those organisations do not have programmes in place to encourage positive mental health in the workplace.

Reasons for stress included:

  • Money – 34 per cent;
  • Work – 31 per cent;
  • Family – 18 per cent.

It could be argued that these reasons largely reflect the social and economic circumstances that the UK is currently experiencing, but it is interesting to reflect on Friday’s reasons and statistics where 76 per cent of respondents also said that their stress was due to work and money. This is perhaps not a massively dissimilar figure to the combined 65 per cent that accounts for work and money above (although considering that AXA have looked at SMEs, and only 500).

I also think it is interesting that the American figures from Friday came from a clinical study conducted within the realm of psychiatry, whereas this UK study comes from a position of mental health being a workplace issue that highlights a gap in training and employer support.

Stat of the day: Stress

By Angela Matthews

Research by the American Psychological Association released in July this year looked at the causes and symptoms of stress. You can see a breakdown of some of the statistics below:

Pie chart showing levels of stress

Note that a whopping 76 per cent of respondents said their stress was due to work and money. Additionally, 48 per cent say that their sleep is affected. All of the above elements represented in the chart could potentially have consequences in the workplace – physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, sleeplessness (this could have an impact on concentration, alertness, or performance, for example), and work/money issues. This is confirmed by the 48 per cent of respondents who said that stress has an impact on both their personal and professional lives.

The study also gives the most commonly reported ‘symptoms’ of stress. These could be indicators or changes in behaviour for managers to look out for in their employees:

Physical symptoms:

  • Fatigue (the most common, affecting over 50 per cent);
  • Headache;
  • Upset stomach;
  • Muscle tensions;
  • Change in appetite;
  • Teeth grinding;
  • Feeling dizzy.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Irritability or anger;
  • Feeling nervous;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Feeling tearful.

Bringing the topic to the UK, an article in the Metro this morning showed that workers spend around a year to a year-and-a half of their careers off sick. The main culprits? Stress and depression. And – the thing that made me gasp most – a third of full-time employees report that there is no sickness policy in place to protect them.

You can read the article here.

Stat of the day: Mental health in older age

By Angela Matthews

The World Health Organisation (WHO) continues to consider age and disability – particularly mental health in older age.

The WHO gives examples of factors in age that may impact and/or contribute to disability or long-term conditions. These examples include that for those who already have a disability when they reach older age (which, I’m afraid, the WHO considers to be anyone over the age of 60), limited mobility and pain can increase. For others, a number of social factors can feature – grief and bereavement or reduced income due to retirement, for example. The WHO warn that such factors can lead to isolation and loss of independence. What evidence do statistics give for this? (Note: The following represent disability worldwide.)

  • 20 per cent of older people have a mental health or neurological condition – the two most common being depression and dementia. This accounts for almost 7 per cent of older people’s disabilities;
  • Anxiety affects almost 4 per cent of people over 60;
  • Depression affects 7 per cent of people over 60;
  • 25 per cent of all deaths by self-harm are of people over the age of 60.

The WHO also notes that those with heart disease have higher rates of depression. This is an important observation on the relationship between mental and physical health and how, where a mental health condition such as depression goes untreated or is not given the appropriate attention, the positive or ‘successful’ outcome of the physical condition can be limited.

One of the WHO’s recommendations for trying to prevent mental health problems in older age is to encourage “active and healthy ageing” which, they say, should allow for integrated and balanced lifestyles. As there are an increasing number of people in the UK who remain in employment much beyond the age of 60, it is worth employers considering how their own policies and practices may be affected by older workers requesting to work flexibly to help achieve a better work/life balance. From next year, flexible working rights will be extended to allow anyone to make a flexible working request (i.e. not just those with parenting or caring responsibilities). How this will be managed by employers, or if there will be any increase in requests from older workers at all, we are yet to see.