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Almost 40% of founders are feeling anxious

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. In the run-up to this week, we asked business founders which mental health issues they had experienced in the last year. While there is always a danger of overstating claims from a small, self-selecting poll, results were striking for several reasons.

According to the most-commonly cited survey of the UK population’s mental health, which dates from 2014, the clinical prevalence of most conditions is below 10%. For its part, mental health charity Mind states that 25% of people experience a mental health problem of some kind each year. And occasionally you come across an outlying whopper of a stat, like this one: “In the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope”.

Even with the sample size and selection bias caveats in mind, when we launched the LinkedIn poll asking founders which mental health issues they had experienced in the last year, we were not expecting these results:

While it’s encouraging to see that founders are not very likely to suffer from depression, the responses for anxiety, stress and loneliness are higher than expected. It suggests founders are in an above average state of anxiety and stress and often feel isolated and without anyone to share those feeling with. If this sense of being on their own isn’t itself a major driver of stress and anxiety, it will certainly exacerbate both and many other problems.

There is a high degree of uncertainty in the world and the economy right now, with extra pressure from increasing inflation and interest rates, post-Covid and post-Brexit supply chain disruptions and a complex picture in the labour market.

Because the question was phrased in an unloaded, neutral way, using “experienced” rather than ‘suffered from’, there is no way of telling whether some Founders who have experienced stress were able to use it as a positive force – a motivator that kept them striving.

But for those Founders who did find these mental health experiences a negative, there are plenty of support systems and mechanisms available. It is important to know you are not on your own and whatever you are experiencing in your business, there are people who have been through it before and come out the other side.

There are lots of support mechanisms in place, with more networks and support groups of likeminded founders than ever available. There will be some that specialise in your sector and others that are sector-agnostic. We try not to preach here at The Supper Club, but it really is easier than you think to unburden yourself and share problems with others who are experiencing the same or similar challenges or who have been there before and have some great advice on how to cope. And, however lonely you might feel now, it is certain that you are not, for one minute, alone.

Read the Loneliness and Mental Health Report