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COVID-19 wreaking havoc on small-business mental health

Adrian Flores
Adrian Flores
13 July 2020 2 minute readShare
mental health

New research has found that the COVID-19 pandemic and its wider economic impact is the most cited cause of mental health challenges to small-business owners.

According to MYOB’s Business Monitor, one in three small-business owners said COVID-19 (36 per cent) had been the number one cause of business-related mental health challenges. This was followed by financial concerns like cash flow (26 per cent).

Attracting and/or retaining customers was third (9 per cent), followed by not having enough family time (7 per cent) and staffing issues (6 per cent).

The survey was based on a sample of more than 1,000 Australian SMEs between April and May.

MYOB chief employee experience officer Helen Lea said the impact of COVID on the small-business sector is hard to overstate, as evidenced by the data.

“Almost half of small-business owners and operators agree that running a business has had a direct impact on any feelings of stress and anxiety, with one in five business owners saying that running their business in 2020 has caused depression,” Ms Lea said.

“Businesses whose owners and operators are aged between 18 and 39 were most likely to agree that they had felt anxiety or stress (68 per cent agreed).”

The survey found retail and hospitality businesses were most likely to state the key business-related cause of mental health challenges was the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact (46 per cent). 

It also asked 780 business owners what their most immediate concern is, with the most common response having to access federal support to supplement incomes (29 per cent), followed by their mental health (26 per cent), which was tied with business and personal finance (26 per cent).

“It’s clear the uncertainty of small-business owners’ finances and cash flow is having a direct impact on their mental wellbeing,” Ms Lea said.  

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said looking after your mental health is more important now than ever, and there are resources to support small-business owners.

“There’s never been a tougher time to be in business. Many small-business owners will be focused on staying afloat right now, but it’s important to balance that with looking after yourself,” Ms Carnell said.

“The fact is, one in four Australians will experience depression or anxiety in their lifetime. Small-business owners’ mental health may be intrinsically linked with the state of their small business.”

The MYOB survey comes as the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that fewer Australians reported feeling personal stress, anxiety or loneliness as COVID-19 restrictions began to ease in late June.

According to the seventh Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey carried out from 24–29 June, before the reinstating of restrictions in some parts of the country, the ABS said it showed how Australians’ mental health had recovered once restrictions were eased.

Crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone in need on the following numbers:

  • Lifeline - 13 11 14
  • Mensline - 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800
COVID-19 wreaking havoc on small-business mental health
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Adrian Flores
Adrian Flores

Adrian Flores is the deputy editor of MyBusiness. Before that, he was the deputy editor for SMSF Adviser as well as features editor for ifa (Independent Financial Adviser), InvestorDaily, Risk Adviser, Fintech Business and Adviser Innovation.

You can email Adrian at [email protected].

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