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U.S. Employees Are Stressed About Wellness

U.S. workers rank mental and psychological wellbeing as one of their biggest wellness concerns, but participation in programs like mental health resources or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) has dropped, according to a March 2021 survey from The Conference Board.

Among more than 1,100 U.S. workers across industries and positions, 59 percent of people ranked mental and psychological wellbeing—such as stress or burnout—as one of their top three concerns, followed by physical wellbeing (36 percent), social wellness and belonging (36 percent), professional wellbeing (27 percent), and financial wellbeing (21 percent).

Among lower-level employees, 76 percent were concerned about mental wellbeing, compared to 53 percent of CEOs.

Stress is a widespread problem. The 2021 Working Americans’ State of Stress report found that 76 percent of workers described themselves as currently “stressed,” and 46 percent said their stress levels were moderate or higher.

Despite concerns about stress and burnout, participation in mental health resources and EAPs dropped four percent during the pandemic.

The Conference Board survey said that age and gender factored into wellbeing concerns, with Millennials most concerned about mental and psychological wellbeing and Gen X workers more concerned about social wellness and belonging. Women were more concerned about spiritual wellbeing—feeling a sense of purpose in what they do—while men were more concerned about social wellbeing.

Stress levels vary by age as well. The State of Stress report found that while only 67 percent of workers over 60 years of age reported significant stress, this rate increases steadily across younger demographics until it reaches the youngest bracket of workers aged 18 to 29—84 percent of whom reported high stress levels.

Stress can result in physical and mental problems, including physical illness or fatigue (51 percent); inability to concentrate, anxiety, depression, or burnout (56 percent); and sleep disruption or ineffective sleep (55 percent), the report found. It also results in changes of behavior; 48 percent of workers reported increased consumption of unhealthy foods, 42 percent reported decreased physical activity, and 25 percent reported increased use of alcohol or controlled substances.

Despite concerns about stress and burnout, participation in mental health resources and EAPs dropped four percent during the pandemic, The Conference Board found. Usage of online resources or tools increased six percent, however, and Millennials in particular increased their use of online resources by 19 percent. Community wellbeing programs took the largest hit—25 percent fewer U.S. workers reported using these programs, which provide time off for volunteering.

Leaders are largely doing well when it comes to supporting their employees. The survey found that 78 percent of workers believe their supervisor genuinely cares about their employees’ wellbeing, and 62 percent said they feel comfortable speaking about wellbeing challenges at work. Nearly one-fifth of workers, though, do not feel comfortable discussing their hardships for fear of negative consequences, and women are more likely to be uncomfortable than men.