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Workers’ Mental Health Deteriorates Due To Covid-19

Ana Delgado, Executive at Structural Repairs, reports that 62% of construction workers revealed their mental health has deteriorated over the past year due to Covid-19.

The risk of suicide among low-skilled male laborers has been found to be three times higher than the male national average. As an extremely male dominated industry, the construction sector has a lot of progression ahead of it when it comes to effectively protecting its workers.

Through a surveyed 600 interviewees of a comparable demographic within the construction industry, here at Structural Repairs it was found that an astonishing 62% of workers have reported that their mental health has deteriorated because of the current pandemic.

These findings fall in line with The Lancet Psychiatry’s study which found that nation-wide, by late April 2020, the mental health of the UK’s populations had deteriorated compared with pre-COVID-19 trends. It can thus be understood that this is both a national and construction industry specific issue.

However, according to a relevant Personnel Today study, the construction industry has been largely identified as a crucial component to the UK’s economy and while many industries and companies have stepped up over the past few years and recognised the significance of acknowledging mental health, the construction industry is yet to measure up to these new standards.

While physical health is of big concern within the construction industry’s radar, the risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction, has been found by the Office for National Statistics to be three times higher than the male national average.

When it comes to physical health, it is well known within the construction industry that its workers are frequently exposed to ill health and various reputable sources, such as the Health and Safety Executive, have widely discussed issues pertaining to the matter. In fact, it was recently identified by the Health and Safety Executive that the physical health of the industry’s workforce, in general, has been in decline with 82,000 ill health cases in 2017-2018 which was up 2,000 cases from the year before. It was further recorded how this cost the United Kingdom’s economy £160m in lost working days.

On the other hand, Carl Laidler, the director of Wellbeing at Health Shield Friendly Society, has reported that [while the social stigma around talking about mental health is gradually fading all-round, the construction industry progress in this regards remails patchy and needs to change].

The reasons for this lack of discussion regarding mental health within the construction industry largely stem from how male dominated the industry is with only 11% of workers being women, as was reported by The Smith Institute. Nation-wide, men have been reported by BMI Healthcare to be half as likely as women to access mental health services and struggle to discuss issues of this nature.

Structural Repair’s survey likewise found that out of the individuals surveyed, 71% of females reported that their mental health has deteriorated due to covid, while contrastingly, only 55% of the men surveyed reported the same.

It can be understood that within the construction industry, mental health is an aspect which is in need of being addressed and destigmatised as a means to protect the wellbeing of its workers. Like with many other industries, and across the United Kingdom as a whole, many construction workers’ mental health has deteriorated as a result of the current pandemic and the national lockdowns which have come with it.

This renders the construction industry in dire need of addressing mental health, more so now than ever before given the lengthy period through which we have now had to endure the pandemic.

While other industries may find themselves better prepared to deal with this pandemic related decline in individual’s mental health, the construction industry is yet far from where it should be when it comes to the mental wellbeing of its workers. If further unforeseen consequences were to happen and likewise affect workers’ mental health, the industry ­­­is not in a position where it would be able to effectively address the needs of its workforce.

Even without any further unforeseen circumstances which hold the ability to have a significant effect on the construction industry’s workforce, the industry remains in need to change in regards to its approach towards mental health. According to Occupational Health & Wellbeing, the industry holds a variety of systematic issues which together contribute towards the creation of an environment taxing on individuals’ mental health.

The predominately male nature of the workforce is extremely likely to perpetuate a largely toxic and ‘macho’ industry culture, a type of culture which has been strongly linked to the high rates of male suicide and depression which are likewise found in other industries, as state by Psycom. Further factor which may influence the decline of mental health within the construction industry include the job’s long hours, demanding workloads, short-term projects, frequent long travel distances required to reach jobs and sites, and much more.

In all, it can be greatly understood, that the construction industry is in great need of further addressing mental health among its workers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many construction workers have reported that their mental health has deteriorated as a result of the year long pandemic we are currently facing.

This statistic is alarming in itself, however, paired together with the fact that overall, men are significantly less likely to open up about mental health issues, it leads to speculation around whether this male dominated industry is in greater peril over mental health than it is reporting.

As a means to thus effectively protect and ensure the wellbeing of its workforce, the construction industry and its organisations are required to further acknowledge the importance of mental health and put strategies as necessary into practice to address it, just as other industries have been doing over the past decade­­­.

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