LONDON — There has been in increase in diagnosis of mental health conditions in the PR industry, according to new research carried out by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

The PRCA/CIPR’s Mental Wellbeing Audit 2023/2024 – conducted by Opinium – revealed that on average, 91% of PR practitioners have reported poor mental health in the last 12 months. The proportion who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition has risen from one in four (25%) to a third (33%).

As in previous years, PR professionals continue to have a far higher risk of poor mental health than the general UK workforce; in the past year, 63% of UK workers overall report having poor mental health.

The number of PR professionals who find their jobs stressful has stayed consistently high: 29% continue to rate their stress levels within the range of 8-10, with 10 being extremely stressful. This figure has remained stable over the past two years, after rising from 26% in 2021. Well over half (58%) of respondents cited an overwhelming workload as a key source of workplace stress.

Before the pandemic, around 70% of UK PR professionals worked from an office full time. This is now down to 9%. Professionals largely agree that working from home has positive aspects, with 81% appreciating a better work-life balance and 78% finding the lack of commute good for mental health.

The survey also showed a rise in the proportion of practitioners who feel able to talk about their mental wellbeing, with 60% of respondents saying they have told someone at work that they have struggled with their mental wellbeing, up from 51% last year.

PRCA CEO James Hewes said: “Amidst the rapid evolution of the PR industry, we must refuse to normalise stress as an inherent part of our culture. The past five years have brought significant change, with more on the horizon. As we navigate the shift to hybrid work environments, it’s urgent to grasp the implications for our workflows and communication dynamics. A constant barrage of updates can hinder focus, and an 'always-on' mentality isn't sustainable.

“It's time for leaders to amplify the conversation on mental health. While progress has been made in acknowledging and addressing mental health challenges, lip service alone won't suffice. We must ensure our actions match our words. By prioritising wellbeing, we pave the way for a healthier, more resilient workforce, benefiting both our businesses and our people.”

CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra added: “The findings shed light on the progress we've made and the challenges that still lie ahead. Notably, the data reveals an issue that is both unacceptable and unsustainable, with workload stress remaining the primary culprit. By working together and taking decisive action, we can drive meaningful change and build a resilient, future-ready, and thriving PR profession.”