Mental Health forces one in six into career breaks


Research is highlighted the effects of mental health on the working population with 19% of women taken time out from their career due to mental health pressures, compared to 15% of men.

The new research1 from AIG Life Limited reveals one in six (17%) employees has been forced to take time out from their career due to stress or mental health pressures. Almost one-fifth (19%) of non-retired females have taken time out from their career due to mental health pressures, compared to 15% of men.

The research highlights employers risk losing valuable skills and experience, a drop in productivity or could face extra costs associated with recruiting replacement talent if people aren’t supported when dealing with stress or mental health issues in the workplace.

The nationwide study shows almost two-thirds (63%) of employees have taken an enforced or voluntary break during their career, lasting on average 14 months. Women are on average out of the workforce for longer than men, at an average of 15.8 months compared to 11.7 months. Physical health issues are responsible for almost one in 10 (9%) of employment breaks, as people take time off to recover from long-term physical illness, while 10% of people have taken time out from their career to care for a relative.

Many of these employment breaks are driven by the emotional impact of losing a loved one, or suffering a family tragedy, as 14% of people have taken time out from their career to cope with bereavement or to take extended compassionate leave. Other reasons for leaving the workforce include compulsory (10%) and voluntary (7%) redundancy and contractors coming to the end of their employment term (9%).

Debbie Bolton, Head of Customer Operations & Chief Underwriter at AIG Life, commented:

‘We urgently need to address the mental health crisis in the UK, which is having a profoundly negative impact on individuals, employers and UK plc. The good news is there are solutions available to help organisations support their employees.  Resilience training, wellbeing programmes, early identification of situations where individuals would appreciate help and intervention schemes are crucial to help employees struggling with stress and mental health pressures.’

‘There are many services now available to employers that can help them to look after their teams when they need it, whether that’s through employee assistance programmes that come with group income protection schemes.”

There are significant challenges for those returning to work after a career break, as more than a quarter (27%) of people stating they had lost some of their confidence. Almost one in six (15%) felt their career development suffered as a result of a taking time out from the workforce.


Regional differences

One in four (25%) residents of Plymouth has taken time out of their career as a result of stress or mental health issues, with inhabitants of Bristol (23%) and Manchester (22%) also struggling with these issues.  Those living in Glasgow (13%) and Liverpool (13%) are the least likely to take a break from work as a result of these problems.

Table one:  People taking a break from work due to mental health issues on a regional basis




1 Research conducted by Opinium among a representative sample of 3,003 adults who are not yet retired between 16th and 23rd August 2019.


You can read the AIG news/press release in full here.