A new study by Leapers has found that almost two-thirds of freelancers feel that poor mental health, stress and anxiety has negatively affected their ability to work, with a similar number unaware of where they can access mental health support.

Leapers Self-Employment and Mental Health Study

New research by Leapers – a mental health support community for freelancers – has found that 64% of self-employed workers feel that poor mental health has negatively impacted their ability to work.

Results from Leapers’ annual Mental Health and Self-Employment study highlight a number of gaps in the relationship between mental health and freelancing, which many self-employed workers are often unaware of.

For instance, although 64% of freelancers who took part in the study said that stress, anxiety or poor mental health had at some point negatively impacted their ability to work, only 29% said that looking after their mental health is a focus for them in building a successful business.

The mental health of workers has become more of a focus on recent years, with numerous studies showing how important it is. Whereas those who are employed are able to access support from their employers, self-employed workers are responsible for their own mental health and wellbeing – however, Leapers’ research shows that it’s not just the actions of the individual that has an effect on mental health. 63% of respondents said that their working relationships with clients influence their mental wellbeing, with common challenges such as late payments causing significant stress and worry.

Mental health effects of coronavirus

Freelancers have been hit pretty hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with 72% of respondents saying that Covid-19, and the resulting national lockdowns and restrictions, has taken a toll on their mental health.

This is compounded by the lack of support available to self-employed workers, with 67% saying they do not feel supported by the government during the pandemic (this increases to 80.5% of self-employed workers who own a limited company).

Despite some of the worrying results, the study by Leapers did find some cause for optimism. An increasing number of people are turning to self-employment to improve their mental health, with 43% of new freelancers motivated by this and citing the increased control and flexibility provided by freelancing as a key factor. Additionally, despite 2020 being a very challenging year in both a professional and personal capacity, the majority of freelancers are feeling positive about 2021 from a professional point of view.

Speaking about the results of the study, Leapers founder Matthew Knight said: “Working for yourself doesn’t have to mean working by yourself. The reason we exist is to provide a space and resources where freelancers can feel connected to others who are going through a similar experience, and not to suggest that freelancing is bad for you, but rather highlight the key foundations of what working well requires, to proactively encourage freelancers to invest in their own wellbeing, so their mental health hopefully doesn’t fall into a poor state”.

More about Leapers

Leapers exists to support the mental health of the self-employed. Visit the Leapers website to join their peer-support community or access their free resources and guides on working well when working for yourself. 

You can also read our interview with Leapers founder Matthew Knight

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