Post-pandemic stress disorder the new SME emerging risk

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, according to a new report by SME insurance specialist Simply Business.

The report, released to mark UK Mental Health Awareness Week, found that 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.

Simply Business suggested that, following a tumultuous two years of lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty, the challenges facing owners today are proving no less difficult to navigate.

Significantly, 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 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.

Alarmingly, 87% 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.

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

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.”

“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.”

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