Archived article

Please note that tax, investment, pension and ISA rules can change and the information and any views contained in this article may now be inaccurate.

We look at two companies which support employees and meet the social aspect of ESG
Thursday 21 Oct 2021 Author: Ian Conway

Mental ill health has been moving up the agenda for some time, and now represents the most common medical complaint for UK adults according to a study by not-for-profit healthcare firm Benenden Health.

Illnesses related to mental health including depression and anxiety were the most commonly reported health conditions in the UK during the past two years, with more than a fifth of 25 to 34 year-olds saying they have suffered during this time period, the most of
any age group, according to the study.


Mental health isn’t just an issue for younger people though. Recent research by the Office for National Statistics showed around one in 10 or 10% of the UK adult population experienced some form of depression before the pandemic.

That figure rose to one in five people or 20% of the population in early 2021, and although it has dropped since then it is still fairly elevated at around 17% of the population.

The study also found younger adults and women were more likely to experience some form of depression, with around one in three (32%) women aged 16 to 29 years experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms, compared with 20% of men of the same age.

Of adults experiencing some form of depression, almost three-quarters (74%) reported that the coronavirus pandemic was affecting their well-being; this compared with around one in three (32%) adults with no or mild depressive symptoms.

Many large companies have responded admirably to the rise in mental health issues among their employees, setting up in-house counselling and support, but many mid-sized and smaller companies don’t have the resources or the capability to offer these services.


That’s where firms such as Kooth (KOO:AIM) and Personal Group (PSG) come in.

Kooth describes itself as ‘a digital mental health and wellbeing company working to provide a welcoming space for digital mental health care, available to all’ and offers investors the purest exposure to mental health.

The firm offers a range of early intervention services from self-help tools and community support forums to professional counselling for children and young people, adults and corporates, all available via its web platform.

The vast majority of its revenues come from its children and young people practice, with over 90% of NHS clinical commissioning groups relying on its services, but the company is building its adult and work practices as employee mental health becomes a priority for companies.

Analysts at Canaccord Genuity believe Kooth can grow rapidly after first half revenues jumped 35% and management assess opportunities in the US, the world’s largest mental health market.


One of the most worrying findings of the Benenden Health study was the lack of progress in reducing the stigma associated with discussing mental health, especially in the workplace, with mental health given as the most common medical complaint not discussed with employers across every single generation.

‘Among their concerns, workers cited that they feared people thinking they wouldn’t be able to do their job, that they would be talked about and that ultimately it might cost them their employment,’ the report explains.

In fact, twice as many respondents were worried about the potential impact of poor mental health than were worried about cancer.


Personal Group provides employee benefits and wellbeing services as well as employee focused healthcare plans to ‘protect the unprotected and connect the unconnected’ in the words of chief executive Deborah Frost.

Through its customisable ‘Hapi’ platform it offers firms a way to support their staff inside and outside of work with products that meet their physical, financial, mental and social needs.

In terms of mental and physical health, members have access to a call-line, online webinars and health advice, development programmes and regular health check services.

They can also speak to expert counsellors if they are going through difficulties and access on-demand GP appointments where the expert can diagnose and prescribe treatment if necessary.

For employers, the group provides up to date advice and insight into all aspects of wellbeing in order that they can support their employees.


Without being mercenary about it, putting in place support for mental and physical wellbeing also makes sound commercial sense for companies.

According to insurance firm Zurich, the proportion of income protection claims made by individuals citing mental health problems in the UK more than doubled to 27% last year from 13% in 2019, making it the most common cause of claim.

A recent Department of Health study estimates mental illness accounts for the majority of lost working days every year – around 18 million – and costs the UK economy more than £100 billion in lost output, the direct cost of services and a reduced quality of life.

Moreover, the cost to the NHS of treating mental ill health is expected to double in real terms over the next 20 years, whereas some of this could be reduced by greater prevention, early diagnosis and intervention.

‹ Previous2021-10-21Next ›