Employees under 40 the most isolated and lonely: study

From Telus Health
Press release

Today, TELUS Health released its TELUS Mental Health Index (“the Index”) with reports that examine the mental health of employed people in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. The Canadian report reveals that young Canadian workers under 40 are increasingly feeling isolated and lonely compared to their older colleagues. Further, nearly half (45 per cent) of workers say they do not have relationships with people they trust at work with younger workers more likely to lack trusted relationships. The lack of trusted relationships is a factor in loneliness, which can lead to lower mental health scores and poorer physical health.

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 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.”

Efforts to combat the negative impacts of isolation and loneliness on employee health and productivity not only improve wellbeing but also have financial benefits for employers.

The TELUS Mental Health Index also found:

  • Thirty-three per cent of workers in Canada have a high mental health risk, 45 per cent have a moderate mental health risk, and 22 per cent have a low mental health risk.
  • One in ten workers in Canada (10 per cent) do not feel valued and respected by their colleagues; this group has the lowest and worst mental health score (49.1), 20 points lower than workers feeling valued and respected (69.1).
  • Women are 50 per cent more likely than men to report that harassment, bullying, unhealthy conflict and other harmful behaviours are not quickly and fairly resolved in their workplace.
  • More than one in seven (15 per cent) rate their company’s culture around mental health as negative.
  • Twenty-one per cent of workers in Canada do not know if their employer provides mental health benefits or their employer does not provide mental health benefits.

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

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

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 Dr. Matthew Chow, Chief Mental Health Officer, TELUS Health. “With the physical and mental impacts of isolation now being discussed more broadly, it would be wise 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 also includes important findings related to key psycho-social risks in the workplace. Read the full Canadian TELUS Mental Health Index here.

About the TELUS Mental Health Index

The data for the TELUS Health Mental Health Index was collected through an online survey in English and French from January 13, 2024 to January 22, 2024 with 3,000 respondents. All respondents reside in Canada and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflects this population.