Study Finds Aussie Adlanders Mental Health Is Improving

Study Finds Aussie Adlanders Mental Health Is Improving

The third major study into the mental health and wellbeing of the media, marketing and creative industry in Australia has shown positive improvements in how much adland prioritises mental health, the effectiveness of our mental health programs and a reduction in stigma.

The Mentally Healthy research, conducted by Never Not Creative and UnLtd and supported by the Mentally-Healthy Change Group measures the levels of depression, anxiety and stress in our industry as well as the attitudes towards mental health in the workplace.

Some 1400 employees across the media, marketing and creative industry participated in the survey, which was conducted during August and September this year.

The study showed a 33 per cent improvement from 2020 both on how seriously employees feel their organisation is taking mental health and how effective staff feel their company is at addressing the mental wellbeing of staff, with 63 per cent of the industry ranking their company’s effectiveness as fair to high. Staff in companies who had signed up to the Industry Minimum Standards for Mental Health showed a considerably higher effectiveness with over 82 per cent ranking effectiveness as fair to high.

The results also showed a further reduction in stigma with 49 per cent of us now believing people would not be treated differently if they disclosed a mental illness in our industry, a 24 per cent improvement from 2020. However, whilst we are supportive of others, only 32 per cent rated our comfort in talking to a colleague about our own mental health as good or very good.

The survey used the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) to identify symptoms of depression and anxiety in research participants. The findings showed that depression levels had reduced with 46 per cent of respondents displaying mild to severe symptoms of depression, down from 56 per cent in 2020. Similarly with anxiety, 46 per cent displayed mild to severe symptoms of anxiety, compared to 52 per cent in 2020. Those showing severe signs of anxiety had also reduced from 24 per cent in 2020 to 14 per cent in 2022.

For the first time since the start of the survey, there was a notable difference amongst the industry subsectors with respondents in creative agencies twice as likely to show moderate to severe symptoms of depression than those in media agencies.

The importance of training managers and leaders with mental health first aid skills and the ability to have conversations around mental health was also highlighted. In the last 12 months, 47% of us consulted our bosses or colleagues about our mental health problems, the same amount as those who consulted GPs.

Time pressures, workloads and the need for appropriate structure and resourcing were clear themes throughout the study. Multiple responsibilities, unrealistic expectations and long hours were ranked in the Top 5 stressors together with pressure from colleagues and clients and the pressure we put on ourselves as the top stressors. Only 47 per cent of respondents felt they had enough time to do their work.

The study also looked at what employees want from their organisations in order to improve their mental wellbeing. Appropriate structures, empathetic and educated leaders, leaders who lead by example, flexible working conditions and clear objectives ranking as the Top 5. Looking at the SMART framework on designing meaningful and motivating work, respondents ranked having a strong sense of support, tolerable demands, clarity and meaning in the work that they do as the most important factor for managing their mental health at work. However, there were clear gaps in what they want vs what they experience – especially relating to tolerable demands.

Overall, respondents are happy with many aspects of the industry – 83 per cent felt their workplace was inclusive and they felt accepted. We are also satisfied with the people we work with (84 per cent satisfied or very satisfied), the physical working conditions (76 per cent), growth of our business (66 per cent) and the interest and skill involved in the job (68 per cent).

Nina Nyman, CMO of UnLtd and co-chair of Mentally Healthy Change Group said the results were encouraging: “Despite the challenges of the last few years, it’s encouraging to see that as an industry, we are taking mental health more seriously and building programs that work. The purpose of the study has always been to identify the issues so we can look at the solutions. The results over the last two years have been consistent in showing us what our industry really wants – empathetic leaders who lead by example, clarity on objectives, flexibility and appropriate resourcing.”

Andy Wright, founder of Never Not Creative and co-chair of the Mentally Healthy Change Group said: “Each wave of the survey allows us to dig deeper into understanding the mental health challenges our industry is facing. More and more, it’s clear that we have to look at the underlying cultural, role design and work dynamics that really haven’t changed for decades. We’re making great strides in prioritising mental health, so we just need to be careful to match the focus on the short term with long-lasting solutions for the long-term. Basically, we’ve got a chance to fix this. So it’s time to get it done.”




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