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Small business owners: Alarming rates of depression, stress and anxiety

An alarming number of cases of stress, anxiety and depression have been reported among UK small business owners, as many still battle the fallout of the pandemic.

The study by small business insurance provider Simply Business, released to mark UK Mental Health Awareness Week, found three in five SME owners report feeling stressed, over half (53%) suffer from anxiety and a third (30%) with depression.

Well over two fifths (46%) of SME owners have also suffered from sleep problems or insomnia and a quarter (25%) report low-self esteem.

Overall, more than three quarters (78%) of self-employed people state the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health and wellbeing, with a third (35%) describing it as severe.

A changing landscape brings new challenges

Following a tumultuous two years of lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty, the challenges facing owners today are proving no less difficult to navigate.

A huge 70% of small business owners now report rising costs as their single greatest challenge. Meanwhile, almost two thirds (63%) say they’ve lost customers recently, and a further third (35%) are struggling to navigate supply shortages.

The threat of future restrictions

The study also revealed two in five (38%) remain concerned about another lockdown or the possibility of tighter restrictions, given the impact it would have on their business.

One in five (20%) are worried that the possibility of closing their business permanently would soon become a reality, should restrictions be re-introduced, while a further fifth (20%) would need to close temporarily.

It comes as 70% of SME owners report rising costs as their greatest challenge post-pandemic. Almost two thirds (63%) are facing loss of customers and a further third (35%) are navigating supply shortages.

Financial worries are widespread

Incredibly, 87 per cent of small business owners have lost money over the last two years, averaging £20,981 each in total, and financial worries remain one of the biggest drivers of stress and anxiety among the self-employed.

While many have been able to recoup at least some losses from the pandemic, one in three (32%) are still concerned about running out of money. Over one in 10 (13%) are also worried about being able to pay back government loans taken out during the pandemic.

Perhaps most alarmingly, more than one in 10 (12%) small business owners say they face going bankrupt in the coming months.

Calls for more help from Government

Overall, a staggering two thirds (63%) of small business owners say they have not felt supported by the government following the ending of Covid-19 restrictions, and in the face of wider economic challenges.

Owners are primarily calling for greater financial support from the government to help them get back on their feet (46%) post-restrictions, while nearly a quarter (23%) feel there should have been greater consultation with small businesses before the lifting of restrictions.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, commented: “Few have been hit harder by the effects of the pandemic than the self-employed. Livelihoods are on the line as a result of Covid-19, with small business owners facing an unprecedented amount of pressure. Clearly this has had a huge impact on owners’ wellbeing, with 78% believing the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.

“At Simply Business, we feel compelled to highlight this issue and provide practical support where we can. Insuring over 800,000 small business owners and landlords helps us understand the specific wellbeing challenges being faced by the self-employed, and the reasons behind this concerning data.

“Financial worries, rising costs, and ongoing supply challenges are having a significant impact on many owners’ mental health. That’s why – in addition to shining a light on the emerging wellbeing crisis among the small business community – we’ve partnered with a range of experts to offer free wellbeing tips and resources tailored to the self-employed.”

Simply Business has launched its Better for Business wellbeing hub for SME owners – working with a range of experts to bring free tailored resources and wellbeing tips to the self-employed.

Read our latest findings on the impact of Covid-19 to small businesses in 2022 here:

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