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Australians increasing alcohol and drug use to cope with mental strain; parents at highest risk

LifeWorks reveals that many Australians are unaware of the substance use resources offered by their employers

MELBOURNE, June 29, 2021 – LifeWorks, a leading provider of technology-enabled total wellbeing solutions, today released its monthly Mental Health Index™ report, revealing a negative mental-health score among Australians for the 14th consecutive month. The Mental Health Index™ score for May is -11.0 compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark. This is relatively consistent with the April 2021 score (-11.2) and continues the positive trend since the inception of the Index in April 2020 (-17.0).

The research revealed that more than one quarter of Australian respondents who use alcohol or other drugs reported an increase in their alcohol consumption (28 per cent) and drug use (26 per cent) during the pandemic. This trend is of particular concern among parents, as they are twice as likely to report an increase in drug use when compared to non-parents. This can negatively affect home dynamics, with parents who use alcohol or other drugs more than three times as likely as non-parents to report that substance use has made it difficult to complete home- or family-related tasks and responsibilities.

“Australian parents have experienced mental strain at a disproportionate rate throughout the pandemic,” said Jamie MacLennan, senior vice president and managing director, Australia and Asia-Pacific. “Balancing continued isolation and changes in personal, professional and family lives is already difficult for people to navigate, let alone those with added caregiving responsibilities. This magnitude of responsibility is leading to extreme mental distress among Australian parents, who are now resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms and employers can take a role in providing support.”

Many Australians unaware of substance use resources offered by their employers
In May, the research found that nearly one third (32 per cent) of respondents reported that their employer does not provide resources to help those who are experiencing challenges related to substance use, which is close to two times higher than those reporting that their employer does provide resources (17 per cent). Although best practices include providing employees and their family members with access to treatment and support resources, close to half of respondents (46 per cent) report that they either do not know if their employer offers resources or are not sure what resources are available.

“The impact of substance use extends beyond the individual suffering. Those who struggle with substance use may have difficultly completing job-related responsibilities, which can have a direct impact on an organization’s bottom line,” said Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice president, research and total wellbeing. “Employees can move away from unhealthy coping mechanisms with proper support offered by their employer. There is now a critical need for organizations to offer holistic mental health programs that educate and support employees through their struggles, including issues with substance use.”

The full Australian Mental Health Index™ report can be found here. This month, the report includes additional insights on substance use disorder treatment resources for employees, reasons people do not seek treatment, the impact of alcohol and other drug use on workplace absenteeism, and more.

About the Mental Health Index
The monthly survey by LifeWorks was conducted through an online survey from April 24 to May 6, 2021 with 1,000 respondents in Australia. All respondents reside in Australia and were employed within the last six months. The data has been statistically weighted to ensure the regional and gender composition of the sample reflect this population. The Mental Health Index™ is published monthly, beginning April 2020, and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018, 2019.

About LifeWorks
LifeWorks is a global leader in delivering technology-enabled solutions that help clients support the total wellbeing of their people and build organizational resiliency. By improving lives, we improve business. Our solutions span employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement and financial consulting, actuarial and investment services. LifeWorks employs approximately 7,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in more than 160 countries. For more information, visit lifeworks.com.

Contact:

Heather MacDonald
LifeWorks
media@lifeworks.com
0011-1-855-622-3327

Angela Pinzon
Kaiser & Partners
Angela.pinzon@kaiserpartners.com
0011-1-647-295-0517