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Small business owners’ mental health taking a hit during cost-of-living crisis

New research by PayPal reveals a significant impact of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis on the mental health of small business owners.

The study found that a staggering 91% of small business owners or decision-makers have experienced work-related stress in the past year.

Top stressors included lack of sales (34%), time pressures (33%), poor work-life balance (28%), keeping up with technology (28%), and managing cash flow (28%).

These pressures are having a clear negative impact on well-being. A third of business owners reported lacking time for relaxation and exercise (34%) or spending time with family and friends (27%). Furthermore, a quarter (23%) are suffering from insomnia or poor sleep.

The stress is even impacting personal lives, with one-in-five reporting strain on their relationships (22%) and feelings of depression about the business (20%). Unfortunately, due to work pressures, two-in-five (38%) said taking time off to relieve burnout was not possible.


Tom Adam, owner of Canberra Martial Arts and Fitness (CMA&F), knows these struggles firsthand. After taking his business full-time in 2018, the stress led to anxiety and depression. However, Tom has persevered through challenges, including COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The best advice in challenging times like this is to focus on what you can do,” Tom said. “Don’t do more with less. Figure out what makes your business unique, what has the greatest value, and then lean hard into that. Let the rest sit on a shelf until it’s time to expand again.”

Dr. Marny Lishman, a health and community psychologist, emphasizes the importance of self-care for small business owners. “Small business owners are susceptible to burnout… It’s crucial that they make time for their own self-care… This means making time for physical activity, socialising, sleeping, resting, and relaxing…”

Dr. Lishman also highlights the availability of resources: “A range of mental health and wellbeing resources are available at business.gov.au… Help with financial stress can be accessed by calling the Small Business Debt Helpline…”

Vanessa Patrizi, a Small Business Success Expert at PayPal, encourages business owners to seek help: “The good news is, support is out there, and no one needs to do it alone. I encourage all small business owners to find the people and partners that can help you, and reach out before it becomes urgent.”


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