Mental Health Problems Most Common in Hospitality and Real Estate

hospitality worker

According to new research conducted in the United Kingdom, mental health issues such as depression are most common in the hospitality and real estate sectors. Still, they were rising across the board before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and University College London discovered significant gender disparities in common mental health problems against females in more than half of the twenty industries studied. The arts, entertainment, and recreation industry had the most significant gap, and the transport and storage industry had the smallest gap.

In the United Kingdom, one in every seven workers has a mental health problem, and women are nearly twice as likely as men to have a mental health problem. Mental health issues account for more than half of all sickness absence days.

4.1% of the UK’s GDP is estimated to be lost because of mental health problems, and better support for mental health at work could save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.

No Mental Illness Decreases

19,581 individuals between the ages of 16 and 65 from 20 different industries were the subject of the researchers’ analysis. This information was gathered as part of the Health Survey for England (HSE), a representative, repeated cross-sectional survey of the population in England that examined changes in people’s health and lifestyles across the nation.

Every year, about 8,000 adults and 2,000 kids participate in the HSE. An interview and, if the person agrees, a visit from a specially trained nurse are used to gather information.

According to the study, the percentage of people reporting mental health issues increased from 16.0% in 2012–2014 to 18.8% in 2016–2018. Three industries — wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, construction, and other service activities — experienced significant increases in prevalence.

In contrast, none of the studied industries experienced a significant decrease in prevalence.

Around one-third (33.7%) of unemployed individuals reported mental health issues. In the hospitality industry (accommodation and food services) and the real estate industry, slightly less than one in four individuals (23.8 and 23.6 percent, respectively) reported mental health issues.

Professional, scientific, and technical activities (15%), agriculture, forestry, fishing (9.6%), and mining and quarrying (6.2%) had the lowest prevalence.

Responsibility plus Public Interaction Emotionally Draining

Jobs involving face-to-face interaction with the public, especially when the employee has a certain level of responsibility, as well as those involving irregular and long hours, can be emotionally taxing or even expose employees to physical and verbal aggression. This may contribute to an increase in the prevalence of mental health issues.

“Nevertheless, we would still strongly encourage industry leaders, particularly in those sectors that fare worst, such as the hospitality and real estate sectors, to take an urgent look and try to identify and address the underlying issues,”

said Dr. Shanquan Chen from the Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge.

Gender Disparities

Females were more likely than males to experience mental health issues in the majority of industries (11 out of 20). This was most prevalent in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, where more than one in four women (26.0%) than one in twenty (5.6%) of men reported having issues.

Gender disparities widened in all but two sectors from 2012 to 2014: human health and social work activities and transport storage. Additionally, women (45.0%) appeared to be significantly more affected by unemployment than men (21.7%).

Previous research has identified some risk factors with gender-specific effects on mental health. For example:

  • Working full-time reduces the risk of mental problems in males but not in females
  • Fixed-term contracts only increase the risk of mental issues in females
  • Males are more affected by changes in work tasks
  • Lack of training, low motivation, and a lack of social support are drivers of mental problems in females.

But the researchers say that the available evidence can’t explain why there were differences in some industries but not others.

Limitations of this cross-sectional study include the self-reported nature of the survey data. The outcomes measured by the survey questionnaire are not equal to a clinical diagnosis and may be subject to recall bias.

Furthermore, the self-administered instruments have only been validated for finding the presence or absence of depressive disorders and do not provide accurate severity quantification.

  1. Chen S and Wang Y (2023) Industry-specific prevalence and gender disparity of common mental health problems in the UK: A national repetitive cross-sectional study. Front. Public Health 11:1054964. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1054964