More than a third of UK adults in full-time work are worried about losing their jobs

6th May 2020
Mental health in the workplace

Over one-third of UK adults in full-time work worry about losing their jobs. As unemployed people show signs of serious mental health problems, the Mental Health Foundation Coronavirus Study finds.

  • More than one-third (34%) of UK adults surveyed and in full-time work are concerned about losing their jobs
  • One-fifth (20%) of unemployed people surveyed say they have had suicidal thoughts and feelings within the last two weeks
  • One in 10 (11 per cent) unemployed people who experienced stress during the pandemic say nothing has helped them cope with it.

According to new data from a study tracking the mental health risks and impacts of the pandemic, more than one-third of UK adults in full-time work are worried about losing their jobs.

The latest research, done on 24 – 26 April, also found that one-fifth of unemployed adults surveyed said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings during the last two weeks. This is more than double the rate among UK adults generally.

One in ten (11 per cent) of unemployed adults who have felt stress because of the pandemic also said that they had not found anything to help them cope with it. Again, this is double the rate among UK adults.

Another new survey finding is that one-third of all adults surveyed said they were worried about their finances, such as bill payments and debts.

The survey data from 4,246 UK adults aged 18 and over were collected as part of a major UK-wide longitudinal research project called Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic.

“Our research is starting to reveal how the financial and employment inequalities caused and exacerbated by the pandemic are affecting people’s mental health,” said Mental Health Foundation Director Dr Antonis Kousoulis. “We have very concerning evidence that many millions of people in the UK worry about fundamental financial matters and job security – both of which are closely linked to poor mental health.

“However, it is also important to recognise that within the overall picture, people who were already unemployed at the start of the pandemic are most seriously affected. It is disturbing that more than one in 10 people who are unemployed and who have experienced stress during the pandemic said nothing has helped them cope with it.

“Without further, rapid UK government action to improve people’s economic security, we can expect things to get worse, especially for the poorest. The financial inequalities that lead to increased and unequal rates of mental ill-health will be intensified - and the benefits of recovery and coming out of the lockdown will not be shared equally.”

The project to track how the pandemic is affecting people’s mental health is being led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the University of Cambridge, Swansea University, University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.

The latest survey asked people about their mental health and how they had coped in relation to the pandemic over the “previous two weeks”.

The Mental Health Foundation is calling for the Government to provide an economic safety net for all during and after the pandemic. As a first step, the Universal Credit advance payment should immediately be made a grant, removing the current requirement to repay if over the following 12 months.

Professor Ann John of Swansea University said: “We know that the mental health impacts of job loss and economic or employment uncertainty, compounded by financial worries about housing, heating and food, can be serious they can also contribute to feelings of hopelessness. This may be what lies behind the suicidal thoughts and feelings we detected among unemployed people.

“We don’t know yet whether the Covid-19 pandemic will affect suicide rates, but we do know that suicide is potentially preventable if we take action to mitigate those effects now, rather than waiting for the number of suicides to rise. It’s also important to remember that most people with suicidal thoughts and feelings do not go on to make suicide attempts or take their own lives.

“We know the mental health impacts of the pandemic will not be felt equally across our society, and governmental actions need to reflect that. Financial safety nets are needed in the short term, but - moving forward - we will need economic activities such as active labour-market policies.”

Based on the latest findings from the study, a detailed briefing paper about financial and employment inequality and mental health in the pandemic.

Mental health advice on tackling financial problems and unemployment is also available.

To report on suicide without contributing to further suicides, media organisations can follow existing and COVID-19-specific media guidelines, such as Samaritans and International Association for Suicide Prevention (PDF).

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 4,246 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th - 26th April 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and represent all GB adults (aged 18+).

The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day - in full confidence: call free on 116 123 or email [email protected]


Notes for Editors

For interviews and information, please contact [email protected] or call 07702 873939. You can also email Rachel Baird: at [email protected] and Muireann Kirby: at [email protected]

The Foundation’s full recommendations for government action to tackle financial and employment insecurity in the context of the pandemic are shown in the more detailed briefing on our website. Recommendations include that as a first step, the Universal Credit advance payment should immediately be made a grant, removing the current requirement to repay it over the following 12 months. For the duration of the pandemic and the follow-on economic downturn, this grant should be given to all applicants, regardless of their circumstances. In the medium term, the Government should convene an expert Taskforce to consider the learning from the Covid-19 crisis and develop proposals for reducing economic insecurity on a long-term basis.

The Mental Health Foundation is leading and sponsoring this 4-nation study for four to six months. The project started before lockdown measures were implemented, and the latest results are from the third wave of data collection. YouGov is using repeated cross-sectional surveys to gather data. This means those survey participants are different on each sampling occasion but taken from the same pool and representative of the UK.

The survey will cover around 20 topics, including the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health and major sources of risk, such as unemployment, financial insecurity and loneliness.

The lead academic partner in the study is the Institute for Public Health at Cambridge University. It has provided Ethics Committee approval and offers opportunities for publication as peer-reviewed research. Swansea University is the lead partner in data analysis and interpretation. The other academic partners are Strathclyde University and Queen’s University Belfast, which support the interpretation of the study's data and disseminate the study’s findings.

A diverse Citizens’ Jury contributes qualitative information, personal insights, and comments on the data generated by the study. Jury members were selected to represent a broad range of human experiences within the UK, including that of living or having lived with mental health problems.

The Foundation is producing regular briefings. Data from the study are also used to inform action by policymakers across the four nations of the UK.

The Mental Health Foundation: Our vision is for good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We will drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.


Press enquiries

Please note that these contact details are for media enquiries only.

If you are a journalist and have a media enquiry, please email [email protected] . If your call is urgent, call 07702 873 939.

If your call is not answered immediately, leave a message, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. 

Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to respond to student media requests, but we hope the website is useful in helping with your studies.

Other enquiries

For emotional support, please contact Samaritans helpline on 116 123. For anyone seeking information on help and support in their area, contact Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463.

Was this content useful?