Isolated under-40s far less likely to have strong workplace relationships

Workers under 40 are 80 per cent more likely to lack trusted workplace relationships compared to workers over 50,Workers under 40 are 80 per cent less likely to have trusted workplace relationships compared to workers over 50, impacting their mental health, physical wellbeing and productivity, according to a new report from TELUS Health. The TELUS Mental Health Index sets out to explore the mental health of employed people in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Europe, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

The UK Index highlights what the report claims are alarming levels of isolation and loneliness among young workers in the UK. The Index also suggest that workers under 40 are 80 per cent more likely to lack trusted workplace relationships compared to workers over 50.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared loneliness to be a pressing global threat, with the effects of isolation and loneliness now being recognized and compared to well-known health risks such as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity. In fact, the US surgeon general is saying that its mortality effects are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“The TELUS Mental Health Index findings reflect a concerning reality, in particular for our younger workers. It also impacts businesses as loneliness and social isolation negatively impact both health and workplace productivity,” said Paula Allen, Global Leader, Research & Client Insights, TELUS Health.

“Rapid societal changes, alongside diminishing social support, are taking their toll. Additionally, there are challenges like inflation, housing affordability and job loss risks that are clear stressors, especially at the start of a person’s career when there is typically less financial stability. Organizations can help by focusing on building a culture of trust, which counters isolation, and highlighting their health, personal and financial programs, which offer crucial support.”

The TELUS Mental Health Index also reports that:

  • Thirty-three per cent of workers in the UK have a high mental health risk, 41 per cent have a moderate mental health risk, and 26 per cent have a low mental health risk.
  • Workers in the UK without trusted workplace relationships are three and a half times more likely to feel isolated compared to those with trusted relationships.
  • Employers in the UK who prioritise and support employee wellbeing experience a range of positive outcomes, including increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved talent retention.
  • Over 20 per cent of workers feel their workplace lacks support, resulting in significantly lower mental health scores.
  • Twenty per cent of workers rate their employer’s mental health benefits and services as poor, while 25 per cent are unaware these resources are available.

There are also regional differences found in the report. For example, within the UK, the mental health score in January 2024 of workers in England was highest (65 points), followed by Northern Ireland (64.9), Wales (64.3) and Scotland (62.3).

In January 2024, the mental health scores of workers in various regions were:

  • United States: 70.7
  • United Kingdom: 64.7
  • Canada: 63.5
  • Australia: 63.1
  • Singapore: 62.6
  • Europe: 62.0
  • New Zealand: 59.6

The TELUS Mental Health Index is based on a response scoring system that then turns individual responses into point values. Higher point values are associated with better mental health and less mental health risk. Scores between 0 to 49 correspond with distress levels, scores between 50 to 79 correspond with strain levels and scores between 80 to 100 correspond with optimal levels of mental health.

“Creating a supportive and inclusive work environment is not only a responsibility, but also an invaluable opportunity for employers to proactively shape the wellbeing of their teams,” said Phil Mullen, Vice President EMEA, TELUS Health. “With the physical and mental impacts of isolation now being discussed more broadly, it is important for employers to acknowledge it as a health risk and prioritize meaningful social connections to support employee wellbeing. In addition to implementing employee assistance programs and other initiatives to address the mental strain, fostering a healthy and connected workplace environment enables individuals to thrive. This, in turn, leads to improved retention, productivity, engagement and overall better health outcomes.”

The January TELUS Mental Health Index includes additional findings related to key psycho-social risks in the workplace. Read the full UK TELUS Mental Health Index here.