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: Depression in the workplace

By Angela Matthews

It’s all about mental health today – a bit of depression and some more stress.

Depression

Some of you may be aware of the Target Depression in the Workplace group. For those – like me – who didn’t know about this, the group includes Royal Mail, Barclays and BT and is a European task force looking at tackling depression in the workplace.

Some of the stats I’ve seen regarding this task force include:

  • Symptoms of disrupted concentration, indecisiveness, or forgetfulness were present up to 94 per cent of the time during each episode of depression;
  • 1 in 10 employees in Europe are at risk of taking time off for reasons related to depression. This will equate to a loss of some 1 billion working days in time and more than £34.6 million in cost.

The companies involved in this task force are reported to employ a combined population of 600,000 across Europe. In June, the Office for National Statistics released a figure that said 19 per cent of adults experience depression. If we apply the 19 per cent to the 600,000, there are potentially 114,000 employees in these combined workforces who could be experiencing depression.

Stress

In addition to the two other stress surveys we have recently looked at in ‘Stat of the day’, Bupa have also conducted one of their own. Some slightly different topics emerge from Bupa’s – for example, they report that men are more likely to deal with their stress with alcohol and women are more likely to try breathing exercises or some form of mindfulness. A few stats from the survey include:

  • 44 per cent of the British population experience stress.
  • 27 per cent regularly feel “close to breaking point”.
  • 61 per cent only seek help when they feel they can no longer cope.

That last figure is a bit concerning.

As this is the third recent ‘Stat of the day’ about stress, tomorrow’s will make a desperate attempt to break free from mental health topics. I try and use stats that relate to something that is ‘current’ in our work or in society generally; so perhaps ‘Stat of the day’s recent concentration on mental health speaks for itself regarding its general current interest in the press and among our Members/Partners. But I promise (I think), something different tomorrow.

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.