2 in 5 workers suffering from mental health issues

A recent study commissioned by leading pension, investment and protection provider Friends First indicates that mental health issues are now the number one workplace illness with 2 in 5 (38%) workers admitting to suffering from stress and anxiety during their career. Cancer (33%) is the second most common illness and chronic back pain (32%) is the third.

Worryingly for the future millennial workforce, mental health issues emerged as most prevalent amongst younger workers with almost half (48%) of under 35’s having taken extended sick leave (more than one week) due to stress or anxiety.

More generally, 4 in 10 (38%) workers reported having taken extended sick leave due to an accident or illness with the resulting sick leave period being on average 14 weeks.


The study shows that employees in Ireland vastly underestimate the likelihood that they will experience a significant income interruption due to their health. Only a mere 7% say they anticipate needing to take extended sick leave in the future. This is despite the fact that 76% of workers said that they, or someone they know, have experienced extended sick leave (more than one week) due to an accident or illness.

When it comes to workplace policies and guidelines on extended sick leave, a quarter of employees (25%) say they would not be paid for a period of sick leave, even for one month or less. 2 in 3 (64%) said they would be paid for up to one month but this drops significantly to one third (36%) for sick leave stretching beyond six months. Friends First claims data shows that the length of the average income protection claims is five years, highlighting a potentially major income gap for workers.

Despite being aware of the prospect of their income being interrupted due to unexpected sick leave, 2 in 5 (40%) of those surveyed admitted to having no plan and no idea what they would do if they found themselves on sick leave with no income.


Almost 9 in 10 (88%) of those surveyed described themselves as being “reasonably healthy” or “very healthy” with just 10% saying they are less healthy than they would like to be.

One in two workers (48%) say that they are regular savers, with €335 cited as the average monthly saving. The top use is for “a rainy day”. However – to contextualise a rainy day – 1 in 2 (47%) workers say that if left without pay due to illness, they would rely on their savings but would run out of money within three months and would need to seek out an alternative source of financial support. Family and friends were identified as the next port of call with 2 in 5 (42%) workers saying they would turn to their nearest and dearest for financial support. Staggeringly, the average amount of time workers on sick leave would expect this financial lifeline to last is 17 weeks.

According to Friends First income protection claims data, the company paid out €37.5 million to over 1,500 claimants in 2017, with the top three stated illnesses being orthopaedic (25%), psychological (21%) and cancer (20%). Friends First data indicates that the average income protection claim lasts 6.5 years, which represents a significant income interruption.

For more information, get in touch with Gallivan Financial today by calling 064 66 37393 or by emailing info@gallivanfinancial.ie.

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