Mental health of small business owners declining says new report

3 min read

Canadian entrepreneurs’ mental health has declined “significantly” over the past year amid rising costs and poor work-life balance, suggests a new report by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

The Crown corporation’s survey of some 1,500 small business owners found roughly 45 per cent of respondents reported feeling mental health challenges at least weekly, up seven percentage points from the previous year.

As well, more than half of the entrepreneurs surveyed cited inflation as a source of stress. A similar proportion, roughly 54 per cent, indicated a poor work-life balance was leading to negative mental health outcomes.

“Canadian entrepreneurs are facing a daunting challenge in today’s economic context, compounded by the scars left by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said BDC chief marketing officer Annie Marsolais in a press release.

“Inflation rates and other factors are affecting their business in ways they can’t control, leaving many entrepreneurs resorting to working even longer hours just to stay afloat.”

The findings also revealed that roughly 38 per cent of respondents said mental health challenges interfered with their ability to work, up four percentage points from last year and seven percentage points from 2021.

The new survey, released Tuesday and conducted in late February and early March, comes on the heels of another report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which found the average small business owner is working what amounts to an eight-day workweek due to labour. shortages in the workforce.

Despite the rise in mental health stressors, the BDC report suggests few entrepreneurs are seeking help, particularly among older small business owners.

While half of the respondents under 45 reported reaching out to a mental health professional, only a quarter of older entrepreneurs did the same.

“This stark divide underlines the pressing need for entrepreneurs to prioritize their mental well-being to thrive in the long term,” said Marsolais, who is also a mental health advocate in addition to her role at BDC.

She noted, however, that the younger generation’s openness to address mental health challenges “sets a powerful precedent for future entrepreneurs, challenging the status quo and paving the way for a healthier business ecosystem.”

The cost of mental health services is the leading factor preventing entrepreneurs from seeking help, the report suggests, with some 25 per cent of respondents noting it as an issue. A further 19 per cent said they didn’t seek support because they felt uncomfortable discussing their mental health challenges.

In the press release, BDC said it will address those barriers to access by launching a pilot project this fall, which aims to connect some of its existing clients to subsidized virtual therapy.

With files by Christine Dobby


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