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Over half of small business owners have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months

4-minute read

Simply Business

Simply Business

15 May 2023

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Long hours, fleeting holidays and less than 5 hours of sleep a night: the mental health of the UK's self-employed is in jeopard

  • Over half (56%) of small business owners have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months
  • Many report struggling with sleep, with a third surviving on less than 5 hours sleep a night on average
  • One in three SME owners work over 46 hours per week – 10 hours more than the average working hours clocked up in the UK
  • Three quarters (73%) take fewer than 20 days of annual leave per year - significantly less than the national entitlement of 28 days
  • Anxiety (59%), depression (38%) and loneliness (22%) all reported as major issues for small business owners
  • In the midst of a cost of living crisis, 41% say ‘financial worries’ are having the single biggest impact on their mental health
  • Simply Business has partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by leading mental health charity Mind, and has donated £100,000 to support the mental health of the UK’s self-employed

Stress, anxiety and depression are crippling small business owners across the country, as new research by Simply Business, one of the UK’s biggest providers of small business insurance, uncovers the full extent of the mental health challenges facing the UK’s self-employed.

As the UK recognises Mental Health Awareness Week, half of SME owners say they have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months – a 124% increase compared with the national average*.

And as the UK grapples with a cost of living crisis, record inflation and rising prices, four in ten (41%) self-employed people admit ‘financial worries’ are having the single biggest impact on their mental health.


Alongside acute financial worries, it’s clear that long hours and a lack of rest are taking their toll on the country’s SME owners. Almost one in six (15%) believe a lack of time off is directly impacting their mental health.

As one in three (33%) open up about experiencing burnout, the research reveals that small business owners are working over 46 hours a week on average – 10 hours more than the average working hours clocked up by workers in the UK (36.4 hours according to ONS data).

What’s more, three quarters (73%) take fewer than 20 days off each year – well below the UK statutory annual leave entitlement of 28 days. Throw lack of sleep into the mix – 44% report struggling with sleep, and a third survive on less than 5 hours a night – and it’s clear that many are at breaking point. CASE STUDY: Serena Fordham, Founder of community interest company ProspHER shared the complexity of running a small business and the toll it can take on one's mental health: “Being self-employed does require an ability to work without barriers or parameters. As a result, the quality of your personal life is directly linked to the success of your business, and the wellbeing of your employees and customers feels fully on your shoulders. Though you might have the passion, an extraordinary amount of effort is required to get things off the ground and keep things going, which can really take its toll."


Worryingly, 80% of small business owners have suffered with poor mental health at some stage.

Three in five (59%) have experienced anxiety (59%), while depression (38%) and feelings of loneliness (22%) are also common for small business owners.

Despite mounting challenges, more than half (51%) of all SME owners say they wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing poor mental health as a reason for absence or delaying deadlines.

Almost a third (40%) say they don't tend to take time off even when experiencing poor mental health, despite acknowledging the benefit it would have for them and their business.


When asked, a staggering nine in 10 (90%) said that they believe the government is not currently doing enough to support the mental health of the self-employed., with small business owners unable to claim the same rights as employees when it comes to statutory sick pay and holiday entitlement.

But there is an ambition amongst the community to make inroads. A third (35%) want to learn how to improve their mental health while running a business but don’t feel they have access to the correct resources.

Simply Business has partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by leading mental health charity Mind, and has donated £100,000 to support the mental health of the UK’s self-employed. Alongside a breadth of resources for SME owners, creating alongside Mental Health at Work, Simply Business is also giving one small business owner the chance to win a £2,000 wellbeing package – including holiday vouchers, access to a virtual assistant, and financial and business coaching. Small businesses can find free mental health resources and enter the competition via the Simply Business website:

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business, commented: “The worrying state of small business owners’ mental health has been laid bare in our recent research – with over half suffering from poor mental health in the last 12 months alone. During a cost of living crisis, the self-employed are working at capacity. Long hours, rare breaks and sleepless nights are leaving many on the brink of burnout.

“And the situation should concern us all. Small businesses are vital to both our economic recovery and the prosperity of our communities, and this will only compound the challenges of an increasingly economically inactive population.

“From financial worries and stress, to isolation and insomnia – it’s critical that the real people behind the country’s SMEs are given the support they need. That’s why we’ve partnered with Mental Health at Work to raise awareness of the challenges facing this audience, and create tailored resources designed to help.”

Andrew Berrie, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, commented: “We know that small businesses and the self-employed are often overlooked when it comes to public workplace mental health initiatives. These communities face unique challenges, and the events of recent years have only made it more difficult for these small organisations and business owners to prioritise wellbeing at work. “Results from our survey in partnership with Simply Business shine a light on how crucial it is that we act, right now, to support these groups. The results expose a mental health crisis, with over half of respondents struggling with poor mental health in the last year, many experiencing insomnia, working long hours, and very rarely taking breaks - it’s a recipe for burnout. “Simply Business and Mental Health at Work are working together to make a real difference in addressing this issue. Together, we're providing accessible, bespoke support for small business owners and the self-employed, to enable them to make positive changes to their mental health.”

A range of tailored resources are also available at Mental Health at Work here:


Data: Survey of 749 small business owners from across the UK, conducted April 2023 *NHS England, ‘One in four adults and one in 10 children experience mental illness’,,care%20for%20people%20who%20do.

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About Simply Business

Simply Business is one of the UK’s biggest business insurance providers, specialising in public liability insurance for SMEs and insuring over 900,000 small businesses and landlords across Britain.

Launched in 2005, Simply Business provides an online brokerage service, delivering policies tailored to individual business requirements. Using the power of tech and data to create the best possible customer experiences, Simply Business employs over 800 people across offices in London, Northampton, and Boston in the US.

Owing to its internal underwriting capability, Simply Business can cover over 1,000 trade types – ranging from plumbers to accountants to dog walkers. An accredited B Corp for their positive social impact, Simply Business has also been voted the Sunday Times Best Company To Work For twice in a row.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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