In a new survey by PRCA APAC and YouGov, it was found that nearly half the region's PR practitioners say they are 'going through a particularly stressful period in my life right now' with more than a third saying the pandemic has worsened their mental health. This increases to 54 per cent among those aged 25 and below.
The study, which surveyed 1,187 PR pros in APAC, showed that high workload and long hours are the most common mental health triggers. These are followed closely by a lack of reward or recognition for good work, stunted career growth, poor work-life balance, and a lack of organisational goals or clear leadership.
There is little gender split in mental health triggers, with the top five the same for both men and women, but there is some variation based on age. Overall, 11 per cent of respondents say they have not experienced any of the issues mentioned. For those aged 18-24 and 25- 34, the figure is lower (eight per cent). It rises to 13 per cent for those aged 35-44; 11 per cent among 45-54s; 16 per cent among 55-64s; and 38 per cent among those aged 65 and above.
PRCA's most recent APAC Census showed practitioners on average work the equivalent of an extra day each week, versus their contracted hours. This appears to be having a knock-on effect, with many practitioners struggling to do things that can be conducive to positive physical and mental health. In particular, women are more likely than men to struggle to find time to exercise, while men are more prone to a poor diet.
Plus, most women and men in the industry say that stress and mental health issues manifest in the form of a loss of interest in social activities or interactions, a feeling of disconnection, anxiety, and a significant change in sleep schedules and appetite. More alarmingly, a small number recorded self-harm and alcohol and drug abuse to be an issue.
Geographically, respondents in Singapore and Malaysia are most affected by worsened mental health during the pandemic. Those in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, on the contrary, had the most number of respondents who said the pandemic improved their mental health.
When asked whether they would be comfortable if a co-worker took time off and were given fewer deadlines or targets to manage their mental health problems, an overwhelming majority of respondents said they were comfortable with the prospect.
While many employers (32 per cent) have not communicated with staff around mental health during the last year, respondents say, the majority have. But this figure changes significantly from country to country with Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan recording better communications from their employers. Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong do not fare as well in this area.
Overall, the region's PR and communications professionals are positive about their employers' work both on general company culture, and specific mental health-related measures. However, statistics show that women are less likely to be as positive towards their employers than men.