SMEs battle depression as economic crisis takes heavy toll

Small business insurance specialist, Simply Business has warned the SME sector is in the midst of an epidemic of depression as the cost of living crisis continues.

The insurer has issued the results of a new survey which found having endured a tumultuous two years of lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty, that the challenges facing owners today are proving no less difficult to navigate for small business owners. In the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, many describe how their mental health has worsened with a fifth (20%) reporting battling depression.

The survey of UK SMEs revealed the key challenges facing SME owners in 2023. With a fifth (22%) rating their mental health as (18%) ‘bad’ or (4%) ‘very bad’. Over half (51%) reported feeling stressed, two fifths (39%) have been experiencing anxiety, while over one in five (22%) struggled with insomnia.

Over four in five (81%) small business owners are worried how the cost of living crisis is affecting their business, with two thirds (65%) seeing rising costs as the biggest challenge to their business heading into 2023. A quarter (26%) are worried they simply won’t be able to pay their bills in 2023.

As a result, 15% have no confidence in their business heading into the New Year with the reality of the cost of living crisis also affecting the way that SMEs can prepare for 2023. Three in ten (28%) say they’re unable to plan or budget due to uncertainty, a tenth (10%) have been unable to order stock and three in five (60%) say their profit margins are down.

And with pressure mounting and with the reliance on festive trading, many small business owners were forced to work throughout the holidays. One in three didn’t take any real break in December – with one in 10 (13%) working the whole of the festive period, and 23% needing to check emails, take calls, and process orders throughout. In fact, 15% last took a holiday or break from running their business 3- 5 years ago, while 10% last took one over 5 years ago.

UK CEO at Simply Business, Alan Thomas explained: “The self-employed are feeling the pressure of the current economic climate more than most, the effect of which is having a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. Our study found that four in five small business owners are worried about the impact the cost of living crisis will have on their business, resulting in a fifth of respondents battling depression.

“Small businesses account for 99% of all British businesses, contributing trillions of pounds a year to the economy in turnover. The recovery of our economy and communities is directly linked to their success.

“At Simply Business, we feel compelled to highlight this issue and provide practical support where we can. Insuring over 850,000 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.”