Three quarters of tradespeople have experienced a worsening of their mental health during the pandemic, with 1 in 5 describing theirs as 'bad' or 'very bad'.
Reports have consistently revealed increasing rates of mental distress among workers since the beginning of the pandemic, with recent estimations suggesting that mental health-related work absences have cost UK businesses £14 billion over the past year.
Most coverage of the pandemic's impact on worker wellbeing has focused on those with office jobs, highlighting concerns over adapting to work responsibilities at home or the possibility of being furloughed.
But unlike their white collar counterparts, tradespeople have continued to work during long stretches of the pandemic.
In fact, according to a new survey from Simply Business, 1 in 5 trades businesses have continued to operate as usual throughout 2020.
Many tradespeople would not have had a choice in the matter as a large proportion are self-employed – a segment of workers for whom government financial support has been heavily criticised throughout the pandemic.
The toll this has taken on tradespeople seems to have been significant: the survey results show that 76% have experienced a deterioration of their mental health, while 17% describe theirs as either 'bad' or 'very bad'.
Symptoms of depression (32%), stress (58%) and anxiety (45%) have been experienced by many construction workers, and almost half (47%) have been having trouble sleeping.
A quarter of respondents have also suffered from low self-esteem at some point in the last year.
When asked about their biggest concerns, mental health and wellbeing (47%) was among the most common answers given by survey respondents, alongside the future of their business (49%) or its potential closure (22%).
"Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the nation’s wellbeing, and that’s especially true for self-employed tradespeople – many of whom have been instructed to continue working throughout the pandemic," says Simply Business CEO, Alan Thomas.
“The self-employed have been among the hardest hit from Covid-19 and those in the construction industry have faced unique challenges.
"The news that three in four have seen their mental health negatively impacted should concern us all for a number of reasons.”
Despite their struggles though, many tradespeople reported an optimistic outlook on the future.
Over the remainder of 2021, 42% of construction workers are optimistic that the economy will pick up, while 38% say they feel positive that the number of jobs and business orders they receive will rise.
Many tradespeople have discovered ways in which to manage their mental health too: 57% said that being outside or connecting with friends and family has helped them, and 53% are using exercise to feel better.
The optimism among tradespeople is promising and encouraging, says Thomas, but the survey shows that "it’s important that they have access to expert support and resources for free."
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health