Australians’ mental health plunges, nearly half of workers plagued by debt

The mental health crisis in Australia has reached a new low, as nearly half of workers report feeling overwhelmed by debt. The latest Mental Health Index™, from health care firm TELUS Health, shows mental wellbeing has declined sharply after three periods of improvement.

What were the findings of TELUS’ report?

The Index, designed to shed light on the current mental health status of Australian adults, shows 78% of working Australians report a high or moderate mental health risk – the highest level since the early days of the pandemic where mental health risk spiked at 87%.

According to TELUS’s research, the overall Mental Health Index (MHI) for the first quarter of 2023 is 62.5, on a scale from 0 to 100, in which higher point values mean better mental health and less mental health risk. A score between 50 and 79 is considered strained and can represent high mental issues at work, as well as risks for individuals and companies. 

Since the launch of the MHI, women have had significantly lower mental health scores than men. A trend that continues in the report with the mental health score of women at 59.7 compared to 66.6 for men. Women also have a lower financial wellbeing score (56.5) than men (63.4) showing the cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on their mental wellbeing.

The overall Financial Wellbeing Index (FWI) for February 2023 is 59.2. This marks a 4.2 point decline in the financial wellbeing of workers since December 2021. Almost half (45%) have felt overwhelmed by debt in February, this group has mental health and financial wellbeing scores 20 points, or more, below national averages. From this group, 70% had not reached out for financial advice or coaching, with the top cited reason being embarrassment (21%). 

A further 45% are unsure about their financial future, with 35% who were able to accumulate savings during COVID having to dig into savings to maintain their standard of living. 

What are TELUS’ thoughts on the findings?

Jamie MacLennan, SVP and MD of APAC at TELUS Health, said the results of the latest Mental Health Index serves as a call to action to Government, businesses and society to address the cost of living crisis which is having a significant impact on the mental health of Australians.

“Financial wellbeing is correlated with mental wellbeing; as financial wellbeing improves, so do mental health scores. There’s a spotlight on Aussies trying to plan their financial future amidst a cost of living crisis, rising interest and inflation rates, and the looming recession,” he said.

“While we see financial wellbeing scores improve with age, there are demographics continually slipping through the cracks in the system with women and households with children continually reporting substantially lower scores which is concerning,” he added.

“With accessibility and affordability remaining top barriers for Australians to access the mental health care they need, there’s a desperate need for Government and businesses to step up and bridge the gaps causing inequality within the system,” concludes MacLennan. 

For further information, please see the MHI Australia update.