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New survey reveals mental health crisis looming among SME owners after Covid-19

3-minute read

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

27 January 2021

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Covid-19 has had a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of 82 per cent of small business owners, according to new research from Simply Business.

We spoke to 765 small business owners across the UK to understand how Covid-19 has affected their mental health and wellbeing.

And with a staggering 82 per cent saying they’ve suffered from poor mental health in the last 12 months, the impact of the pandemic is clear to see.

We found that while financial worries are causing the biggest impact, other concerns include not being able to see family and feeling unable to take a break from work.

Survey reveals hard-hitting stats on small business owner stress

Almost half of small business owners are worried about their mental health

Many businesses have had to close or operate at reduced capacity throughout the pandemic – just 21 per cent have continued to operate as usual. And 33 per cent have had to temporarily close their business at various points and 44 per cent have continued operating but at reduced capacity.

The pandemic has also taken an emotional toll. A fifth (19 per cent) of small business owners would describe their current mental wellbeing as bad and almost half (47 per cent) are worried about their mental health going into 2021.

We found that the vast majority, if not all, say any symptoms of poor mental health have either been caused by or made worse because of Covid-19.


% said they experienced this in past 12 months







Sleep problems


Low self esteem




What's been the emotional impact of running a business during the pandemic?

The day-to-day running of a business during Covid-19 is affecting small businesses owners in many different ways:

  • 35 per cent struggle to switch off
  • 28 per cent feel demotivated to work or restart their business
  • 21 per cent say their confidence has been affected
  • 22 per cent say it's impacted relationships with family or friends
  • 18 per cent have fallen out of love with their business or industry

Financial worries are greatest risk to wellbeing

In terms of what’s causing a negative impact on mental wellbeing, financial worries are the greatest concern among SME owners – 61 per cent said they’ve worried about money in the past 12 months.

Other factors that have contributed to poor mental wellbeing include being unable to see family and friends (60 per cent), uncertainty surrounding their business (44 per cent), and stress (48 per cent).

Feeling unable to take a break or holiday has also impacted the wellbeing of 37 per cent of small business owners in the past year.

Meanwhile one third (28 per cent) say isolation or loneliness has had a negative impact on their wellbeing, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) mention lack of physical exercise as a contributing factor.

We also asked businesses what they were most concerned about as they look ahead to 2021:

  • over two thirds (67 per cent) are worried about future lockdowns
  • half (49 per cent) are worried about the future of their business
  • 47 per cent are worried about their own mental wellbeing
  • nearly a quarter (22 per cent) are concerned about needing to permanently close their business

There’s still a level of optimism

While the coronavirus pandemic remains a challenge to small business owners, there’s still a level of optimism as we look ahead in 2021.

It’s positive that 39 per cent of small business owners are optimistic about the economy picking up this year, and a fifth (21 per cent) are optimistic about learning new skills.

They’re also confident about the future of their business (36 per cent), jobs or orders picking up (25 per cent) and being able to adapt their business (31 per cent).

Tips for looking after mental wellbeing

As well as uncovering the emotional impact of the pandemic, our study also looked into how small business owners are looking after their wellbeing:


% say this helps their wellbeing

Spending time outside/in nature




Connecting with friends or family






Mindfulness and meditation


Arts and crafts


Simply Business has a dedicated Better for Business wellbeing support page, with plenty of practical resources to help small businesses and the self-employed manage their mental health from trained specialists – including tips on sleeping better.

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Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

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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