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New Data Reveals SA Employees Facing Mental Health Crisis

New data by Life Health Solutions, a leading provider of health risk management solutions within the occupational and employee wellbeing environment, reveals a trend of increasing mental health risks in the South African corporate workplace.

The Life Health Solutions research, which analysed data from 2018 to 2023, found a significant rise in the prevalence of mental health risk cases – individuals identified as posing a safety risk to themselves, others, or their organisation. These risks included a range of factors, such as suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and financial instability.

A rise in risk

The data highlights a concerning overall increase in mental health risk cases across genders, with men reaching 37.12% in 2023 compared to 35.10% in 2018, and women decreasing from 64.90% in 2018 compared to 62.88% in 2023.

While women consistently reported a higher prevalence of mental health risk cases over the five-year period, it does not mean that men are in any way less affected by the same risk factors.

It’s important to consider that societal expectations and stigma surrounding men’s mental health may lead to underreporting and a reluctance to seek help, while unique pressures faced by women in the workplace may require targeted support.

Risk for young people and dependents

The data also reveals a trend of young people experiencing mental health challenges. In 2023, individuals aged 30-39 constituted the largest group presenting with mental health risk, while a concerning 10.78% were under the age of 19.

The research also revealed a marked increase in dependents of employees experiencing mental health risks, highlighting the far-reaching impact of workplace stress on families.

Drivers of mental health challenges

The data identifies several key drivers behind the rise in risk cases. Suicidal risk remained the most prevalent consequence of the risk cases driven mainly by depression, stress, and relationship difficulties.

Notably, 2023 saw a sharp increase in stress, relationship issues, bereavement, anxiety, domestic violence, and difficulties adjusting to life changes as contributing factors.

A lifeline for employees

“These findings underscore the critical need for proactive mental health support within the South African corporate workplace,” says Safia Joseph, Life Health Solutions Psychologist.
“Employers have a responsibility to foster a culture of wellbeing and provide resources that empower employees to navigate personal and professional challenges.”

Life Health Solutions offers comprehensive employee wellness programmes designed to address this growing need. With a network of over 950 healthcare practitioners and 3 000 dedicated staff members, the organisation provides confidential virtual and in-person counselling, mental and physical health resources, financial coaching, and legal guidance to more than  461 038 individuals.

For people seeking additional treatment, support and management of mental health conditions, Life Mental Health is a leading provider of private psychiatric services, offering acute care at facilities in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.