UK under threat of alcohol and drug crisis as Brits feel COVID strain

Parents across the UK are using increasing amounts of drink and drugs to cope with the mental pressure of life in lockdown, prompting a call for employers to better support their staff.

Wellbeing solutions provider LifeWorks, has released its monthly Mental Health Index report, revealing a negative mental-health score among Britons for the 14th consecutive month. It also warned that employers are viewed as failing to provide their staff with the support as their mental health deteriorates.

The Mental Health Index score for May is -11.2 compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark. This marks the highest point since the inception of the Index in April 2020 (-13.8), following a trend of steady improvement that began in February 2021.

The research revealed that one third (33 per cent) of respondents who use alcohol reported an increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic, while one quarter (25 per cent) of Britons who use other drugs reported an increase in their drug use.

“This trend is of particular concern among parents, as they are more than twice as likely to report an increase in drug use when compared to non-parents,” said the firm. “This can negatively affect home dynamics, with parents who use alcohol or other drugs nearly three times as likely as non-parents to report that substance use has made it difficult to complete home- or family-related tasks and responsibilities.”

“Parents have been put to the ultimate test over the past year, with competing responsibilities at work and home contributing to added pressure sustained over an unusually long period of time,” said Philip Mullen, the firm’s Managing Director, UK and Europe. “Some parents are turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a result of prolonged stress. This is a critical issue and one that needs to be monitored and addressed by employers as soon as possible.”

The study also warned that, in the eyes of the employees firms are failing to support their staff.

“In May, the research found that more than one third (34 per cent) of respondents reported that their employer does not provide resources to help with those who are experiencing challenges related to substance use, which is close to three times higher than those reporting that their employer does provide resources (13 per cent),” said the report. “Although best practices include providing employees and their family members with access to treatment and support resources, close to half of respondents (47 per cent) report that they either do not know if their employer offers resources or are not sure what resources are available.”

“Our research is highlighting a significant disconnect in the number of employees reporting an increase in drug or alcohol use and the support offered by their employers,” said Paula Allen, global leader and Senior Vice President, Research and Total Wellbeing. “If organisations do not begin to offer support or proactively communicate the resources available to help their workforce, we will see substance use become an entirely new pandemic. Employers play an important role in leading their teams towards healthier lives and this is an urgent wakeup call they cannot miss.”

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