Mental health in the trades: 2021 report

In line with Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we surveyed UK tradespeople to highlight the issue of work-related stress within the industry. This report reveals the scale of the problem, the most common cause of the stress, the impact it has on tradespeople’s lives and, crucially, what you can do if this affects you.

Who’s affected?

Worryingly, almost half of UK tradespeople (49%) say they’ve experienced some form of mental health problem due to work, such as stress, anxiety or depression. Many of these individuals deal with such issues on a regular basis, with over a quarter (28%) experiencing mental health issues every day and nearly three in five (58%) reporting symptoms every week. A shocking 91% experience work-related stress at least once a month.

Some tradespeople are more likely to experience mental health issues than others. Female tradespeople (57%), for example, are significantly more prone to such conditions than men (41%).

Regarding age, workers who are between 45 and 54 years old are the most likely to face these challenges, with nearly three in five (58%) reporting some form of mental health issue. However, it is millennial tradespeople (25-34) who face such conditions most often, with almost a third struggling daily (32%).

91%

of tradespeople

experience work-related stress at least once a month

Causes

The causes of these mental health issues are incredibly varied and will differ for every individual. However, money worries are the number one concern, with nearly two in five (38%) saying they are a major cause of stress. Tensions with customers (31%) and suppliers (29%) are next on the list. Our recent research found that the average UK tradesperson is owed over £1,000 in withheld payments, which must add to the financial pressure.

For male tradespeople, high workloads (39%) are the main reason that they feel anxious. Women are less than half as likely to be concerned about having too much work (15%), with finances (39%) and tensions with business partners (29%) their most prominent stressors.

Sadly, abuse from customers is another cause of mental health problems, with a horrific one in five (20%) tradespeople aged between 55 and 64 being on the receiving end of insults.

What’s the impact?

These stressors have a significant impact, including over a quarter (28%) of UK tradespeople taking anti-depressants or some form of similar medication, while almost a third (32%) have needed professional help from a counsellor or therapist.

Mental health issues have also caused nearly one in five (19%) to take time off work. This is most common amongst 34–44-year-old tradespeople, with over a quarter (27%) having taken a leave of absence due to stress.

How often tradespeople experience stress, anxiety and depression

30%

At least once a week

28%

Every day

20%

At least once a fortnight

By trade

Mental health issues are far more common in some trades than others. Bricklayers are the most likely tradespeople to experience problems, with almost three-quarters (73%) admitting symptoms and tensions with business partners (50%) being their main cause of anxiety.

Bricklayers are followed by joiners (62%), who primarily worry about finances and supplier issues (38% each).

While plasterers are among the least likely to suffer from mental health problems (22%), they are the most worried about job security, with half (50%) admitting they are concerned about the stability of their employment.

What can you do?

One of the most positive ways to begin addressing mental health issues is to open up and talk to someone about what you are going through, no matter how difficult that may be. More than two in five (42%) tradespeople have spoken to friends or family about their problems, which is encouraging to see.

However, overall, more than a quarter (29%) say they don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health with others. This is more of a problem amongst men, with nearly a third (32%) of those surveyed finding it hard to discuss what they’re feeling, compared to a quarter (25%) of women.

It’s also something that younger tradespeople in particular struggle with. Sadly, over half (52%) of workers aged 18 to 24 say they wouldn’t speak to anyone about their mental health.

To help break this stigma, be sure to check in on your colleagues, employees, friends and family and ask how they are. Do this regularly to show your support and open up the conversation for you to both discuss worries if necessary.

Employers should make an effort to invest in mental health training, so you know what signs to look for and how to help anyone who needs support.

If you’re feeling stressed about work, follow these helpful tips from the mental health charity, Mind:

What we’ve done to help

Here at IronmongeryDirect, we’re passionate about raising awareness on this topic and helping tradespeople feel comfortable to discuss their stressors with others. To help on this mission, we’ve donated £5,000 to the charity, Mind, to support its incredible efforts to improve the mental health of the nation. The money will help fund its vital work, which includes running mental health helplines, providing support in local communities and campaigning for change.

We also went to the Leeds College of Building, where we laid out 454 hardhats to symbolise the number of construction workers who die from suicide each year, according to the latest figures2. By highlighting the appalling scale of this problem, we hope to raise awareness of the issue and encourage people to seek support.

Because men generally find it more difficult to talk about how they’re feeling, in male-dominated industries such as construction, employees are often less willing to ask for support

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind

Because men generally find it more difficult to talk about how they’re feeling, in male-dominated industries such as construction, employees are often less willing to ask for support

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind

For more information and support

For more information about Mind and the services they offer

For support specific to the construction industry

Or: https://www.matesinmind.org/construction.html

To speak to someone about your mental health, visit the Construction Industry Helpline

[1] Survey of 500 UK tradespeople conducted by The Leadership Factor on behalf of IronmongeryDirect in April 2021

[2] There were 454 construction suicides in 2016, the latest data available: https://constructionmaguk.co.uk/working-ourselves-to-death-suicide-in-the-construction-industry/