New research highlights ‘hidden crisis’ of anxiety levels amongst construction workers


CONCERNS have been raised after early findings from a new study revealed worrying details about the stress and anxiety levels amongst self-employed UK construction workers and those working in smaller firms.

Charity Mates in Mind said high levels of mental distress and a reluctance to seek professional help are leading to increased alcohol and drug use as well as self-harm.

Intense workloads, financial problems, poor work-life balance and Covid-19 pressures on the supply of materials are combining to ‘significantly’ raise stress and anxiety levels.

Preliminary survey findings from over 300 respondents suggest that almost a third are now living with elevated levels of anxiety. Construction workers from a range of trades including bricklayers, groundworkers and plasterers told researchers from Mates in Mind and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) that the stigma of mental illness prevents them from discussing it beyond close friends or family members.

“We have a real concern that the data shows that sole traders and those working in smaller firms with more severe anxiety were least likely to seek help from most sources,” said Sarah Casemore, MD of Mates in Mind. “This means that too many construction workers every day are going under the radar and are not seeking support from healthcare professionals or mental health charities.

“This represents a real hidden crisis which threatens the viability of a major sector of the UK economy and many of those who work in it.”

The study, funded by a research grant from B&CE Charitable Trust, is investigating the extent of mental health problems and the extent to which new, more accessible, forms of support and guidance on mental wellbeing can be offered to individuals experiencing distress, depression, or anxiety.

Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at IES, who has led the survey component of the research, commented, “We have been concerned to find that so many construction workers are finding it hard to disclose their mental health problems and that these are also causing them to lose sleep, develop severe joint pain and exhibit greater irritability with colleagues and even family members. We are hoping that our upcoming interviews with some of our participants will shed more light on the types of support which they feel comfortable and confident to use.”