Australians concerned about return to pre-pandemic life and economy

| July 6, 2020

Morneau Shepell, a leading provider of total wellbeing, mental health and digital mental health services, today released its monthly Mental Health Index(TM) report. The June report marked the third consecutive month with a negative mental health score. The findings show that even with parts of Australia re-opening after nearly three months of lockdown, financial risk and feelings of isolation remain the top threats to Australian employees’ mental health.

The June Mental Health Index(TM) score is -12. The score measures the improvement or decline in mental health from the pre-2020 benchmark of 75. This month’s overall score is up three points from the score last month. The Mental Health Index(TM) also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring anxiety (-14.1), work productivity (-13.6), depression (-13.3), optimism (-12.8) and isolation (-11.7). While the sub-scores remain low, there has been a modest improvement across all of these areas when compared to the prior month.

“While many businesses have reopened and employees returned to work, Australians remain uncertain and wary about a second wave of lock-downs and how it might damage any progress made toward economic recovery,” said Jamie MacLennan, managing director, Australia and APAC. “Throughout this global health pandemic, the Mental Health Index(TM) continues to provide valuable insight on the impact COVID-19 is having on Australians’ quality of life and mental health.”

Australians express concern about current phase of pandemic
As the country begins to move into the next phase of the pandemic, less than half of people surveyed (47 per cent) feel that they have what they need. The most commonly reported need is for support to deal with anxiety (23 per cent). This is followed by the need for clearer guidance on how to prevent spreading/getting the virus (22 per cent).

With a mix of physical distancing, self-isolation, and the closure of some businesses, the data shows there is likely to be a change in spending habits after the pandemic. A minority (25 per cent) indicate that they will return to prior spending habits quickly after the pandemic.

— 30 per cent believe that they will be concerned about job security for
a while
— 24 per cent are concerned about the risk of infection from being
in stores and service areas
— 23 per cent indicate that their income has changed
— 14 per cent are not sure about whether they will return to former
spending or not
— 11 per cent do not have the will or energy to do things they did before

Employers play an essential role in mental health
There is a strong correlation between scores on the Mental Health Index(TM) and the individual’s view of how their employer managed health and safety issues during the pandemic. An even stronger correlation is evident between the Mental Health Index(TM) scores and perception of how well their employer has been supporting the mental health of employees. Thirty-three per cent of respondents indicate that their employer has been supporting employee mental health inconsistently, poorly or very poorly during the pandemic. The Mental Health Index(TM) score for this group ranged from -17.7 for those who indicated inconsistently, to -21.3 for those who indicated mental health being supported poorly to -32.9 for those who indicate very poorly. This compares to -11.7 for those who indicate mental health being supported somewhat well, and 0.2 for very well.

“While employers keep employee physical health and safety top-of-mind during this time, mental health also plays an equally prominent role in employee performance, which ultimately impacts the overall health and productivity of the organization,” said Paula Allen, senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “How employees view their employer becomes their reality, and a negative view from the workforce can have a detrimental impact on the company’s brand and reputation. During uncertain times, employers and managers need to frequently communicate with their employees and provide the necessary tools to alleviate stress as much as possible to create a healthier work environment.”

The full Australia report includes more insight on changes to mental stress, the impact of a positive outlook on one’s emotional state of mind and variations of the Mental Health Index(TM) score by demographics, industries and regions. The full Australia report can be found at