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Many workers still reluctant to miss work for mental health issues, survey finds

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Phoenix — Workers are far less likely to take time off for mental health reasons than for physical ailments because “negative stereotypes and barriers still exist that keep people from taking time off for mental health,” according to the results of a recent Harris Poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.

For the survey, 2,020 U.S. adults – 1,123 of whom were employed – shared their perceptions of burnout and mental wellness in the workplace. Although 55 percent reported having felt burned out at work, only 34 percent said they had taken time off because of it. In contrast, 61 percent said they had taken time off for physical ailments.

Key reasons why respondents avoided taking time off to address mental health issues:

  • An employer wouldn’t consider mental health an acceptable explanation (46 percent of respondents)
  • Too busy to take time off (39 percent)
  • Shame or judgment by co-workers (36 percent)
  • Fear of someone taking over their responsibilities (35 percent)
  • Societal stigma around mental health (33 percent)

“These results speak to the lack of support on a societal level for recognizing, supporting and treating mental health,” Dean Aslinia, chair of the university’s counseling/mental health counseling program, said in a Jan. 24 press release. “The data suggests that many employees are not taking their mental wellness as seriously as their physical health. Ignoring our mental health and symptoms of burnout not only affects job performance and relationships, it can also have a lasting impact on one’s physical health.”


Among the participants who said they had experienced burnout – which can be signaled by fatigue, depression, anxiety and anger – 68 percent said they had felt fatigued or had feelings of anxiety (65 percent), anger (53) and depression (48).

Aslinia encourages workers to seek help inside and outside of their organization when experiencing mental health issues.

“There are many resources available to help you build good mental health habits,” Aslinia said in the release. “If you feel you are experiencing burnout, take steps to address it, including having discussions with your manager, taking time off or speaking with a mental health professional.”

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