Over the last two and a half years, the world has suffered a global pandemic and, quickly on its heels, a mental health crisis. As we approach World Mental Health Day (October 10), it’s critical that we turn our attention to raising awareness around still-stigmatized mental health issues, reducing barriers to treatment and improving access to mental health care and support in our small business community.
In the Spotlight: Mental Health for Business Owners
Entrepreneurs are certainly not immune to mental health struggles. In fact, the nature of their career contributes significantly to their overall mental well-being. We set out to survey 2,000 small business owners about their mental health. Their honesty and authenticity in tackling this often sensitive subject was deeply appreciated and incredibly valuable.
The data we uncovered from business owners, consultants and freelancers across 13 industries and varied cultural backgrounds and ethnicities will give us insights we can use to better support small businesses and mental health — together.
Here’s what we discovered:
1. 77% of Small Business Owners Are Making Mental Health a Priority in the Wake of the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst not only for a mental health crisis but for improved awareness and prioritization of mental health care. More than three-quarters of our respondents (1,544) said definitively that the pandemic had pushed them to make mental health a priority.
For 49 percent, their struggles with anxiety, depression and other issues were a direct result of the pandemic; however, another 35 percent said their mental health struggles began before the pandemic or were chronic and ongoing. Women were slightly more likely than men to say their struggles were chronic, while men were more likely to report the onset of problems during COVID-19. Only 15 percent said they’ve had no concerns about their mental health.
2. Anxiety Is the Biggest Struggle for Entrepreneurs
In fact, 65 percent of entrepreneurs have suffered from anxiety, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. In addition, over half have struggled with depression. In total, men were slightly more likely to report anxiety, depression, ADHD and/or substance use disorder than women.
Within this group, men ages 25-44 were the most likely to struggle with substance use. Additionally, more members of the LGBTQ+ community reported struggling with anxiety (77 percent), depression (75 percent), ADHD (42 percent) and substance use (33 percent) than any other minority group.
The Silver Lining
As of the time of the survey, 80 percent of all respondents reported their current mental health status as “great.” However, this means that 20 percent of business owners are currently experiencing “poor” mental health.
Obviously, there is still work to be done within the small business community to ensure this 20 percent get the care and resources needed to improve their mental well-being. In fact, all small business owners should have an understanding of the ways to look after their mental health.
3. Small Business & Mental Health: The Biggest Triggers
We all have certain behaviors or events that trigger issues with our mental health. Some are expected and can be anticipated, while others can creep up without warning. Here are the ones our entrepreneurs reported are the biggest barriers to their mental well-being:
Money and Time: Tied for Top Mental Health Trigger
It might not be surprising that these were the two biggest contributing factors to mental health struggles among business owners. Money slightly edged out time as the most significant trigger, with 31 percent saying “Managing Finances” was their biggest stress. “Time Management/Burnout” came in a close second at 27 percent.
Another 18 percent said that working alone/remotely (one of the major changes precipitated by the pandemic) was their largest trigger. Among reporting minority groups, members of the LGBTQ+ and Asian American communities said that time/burnout were their biggest stressors, while African Americans were more likely to select money and finances.
Inequality in the Home = Stress in the Workplace
The pandemic brought to light numerous issues in the way our country approaches work and in the way we balance our personal and professional lives. Workers who suddenly were forced to make the shift to remote work reported issues with managing things like childcare, housework and daily tasks, with much of the burden falling on the shoulders of women.
Our survey showed overwhelmingly that an unequal distribution of household labor and childcare during the pandemic contributed to mental health issues, with 70 percent reporting it is a factor. Men were slightly more likely than women to rate it as an issue.
88% Say Sleep Is a Major Factor in Mental Well-Being
Who needs sleep? We all do. But business owners aren’t getting enough of it. And when they don’t, it can lead to serious issues, including struggles with mental health. In our survey, an overwhelming majority of 88 percent (1,757) said that a lack of sleep is absolutely a contributing factor to their mental health struggles.
For 60% of Business Owners, Social Media Is a Trigger
What do most people do when they can’t sleep? They scroll social media. But for a majority of business owners, that’s also a serious detractor of mental well-being. Sixty percent expressed a desire for social media to be a more supportive place for mental health, while the remaining 40 percent say they still enjoy using social media as a key function of their business.
4. Self-Care Is Mental Health Care for Entrepreneurs
The good news uncovered in our survey is that many small business owners and entrepreneurs are finding effective and healthy coping strategies to combat issues like anxiety and depression.
The majority — 61 percent — said they practice some form of self-care, including exercising, eating healthy and being outdoors. Asian Americans were most likely (10 percent more than the average) to say they took part in self-care rituals, followed closely by the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, both groups were more likely to respond yes to all options, including surrounding themselves with friends and family and seeking professional help.
5. 62% of Business Owners Provide Mental Health Support for Employees
Business owners understand that they aren’t the only ones affected by the pandemic or facing struggles with mental health. Our survey revealed that nearly 62 percent of respondents with 1-50 employees provide some form of mental health support, whether through benefits and counseling services (29 percent) or paid time off and flexible hours (33 percent).
Another 17 percent said they’d like to provide support, but it’s currently not in their budget, while 9 percent said they simply don’t know where to begin. Only 12 percent said it’s not something they’re interested in providing to employees.
Survey Says: Among Business Owners, Mental Health Matters
It’s not easy to talk about mental health. The stigma still persists, and among entrepreneurs, it can be especially difficult to bring up the subject and find access to care and resources.
However, our survey results show optimism for the future of the small business community. While the pandemic was tumultuous and at times devastating for business owners, it also pulled back the veil of mystery surrounding mental health and brought it into the spotlight.
We thank our survey respondents for their candid feedback and believe the insights gathered will contribute to positive change within the small business community.
Incfile surveyed 2,000 small business owners from across 13 industries and varied cultural backgrounds and ethnicities through a third-party survey platform to gather valuable data. The age group of respondents was 18-64 years and included minority groups and other marginal communities to provide a comprehensive report on our findings on how the diverse small business community tackles issues of mental health and entrepreneurship today.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).