NEWS14 December 2023

A third of US researchers in ‘highly stressful’ roles

News North America Wellbeing

US – One in three US researcher rated their jobs as ‘highly stressful’ and more than half experienced burnout in the past year, according to research from the Insights Association and Opinium.


The research, featured in the report Mental Wellbeing in Insights: Small Steps Toward Better Health, said the biggest causes of stress were impending deadlines (cited by 49%), work-related pressures ( 46%), inadequate resourcing ( 45%), project risks ( 42%), excessive workload ( 37%) and job insecurity ( 33%).

Most professionals ( 56%) believed mental health was taken seriously in their workplace, but one-third of employees felt there workplace was not doing enough for wellbeing, up 4% from last year’s survey.

The results are based on a survey carried out in October 2023 and including 413 responses from research professionals. The report was modelled after a previous Market Research Society and Opinium study on mental health in the research industry, and also replicated by The Research Society in Australia.

Other findings from the research include that stigmas over mental health remain, with less than 40% sharing the real reason they took time off for mental health issues.

More respondents (a 4% increase) felt unsupported when they return to work after taking time off for mental health, and there was a 5% increase from last year’s survey in individuals feeling guilty for taking time off for their mental health.

There was a 3% decrease in the number of people who feel better upon returning to work after a mental health break and a 12% drop in people feeling that the quality of their work improved after taking time off for mental health.

However, respondents reported that the pressure to return to work too early lessened by 9%.

The Insights Association recommended that company leaders model positive mental health behaviour by sharing experiences, taking part in wellness activities and taking mental health days, as well as prioritising work-life balance.

Other recommendations included having comprehensive wellness programmes in place encompassing various aspects of wellbeing, including mental, physical and financial, and also having regular check-ins with staff, communicate specific company policies to staff, actively assessing workloads, allowing employees to share their experiences and showing that the feedback leads to changes, and providing training to management on handling their team’s wellbeing.

Melanie Courtright, chief executive at the Insights Association, said: “What stands out to me in this year’s data are the workplace issues that increased the most in incidence level from a year ago, namely co-worker/manager demands, unclear expectations and unsupportive management.

“I hope that leaders in our profession will take this opportunity to assess when and where these issues occur in their organisations and focus on improving communications and other tactics to mitigate these situations.”

James Endersby, chief executive at Opinium, said: “While it’s positive to see many companies in our industry taking steps towards employee wellbeing, such as offering wellness programs and encouraging time off, we still face a significant challenge in making wellbeing resources more accessible and removing the stigma around seeking help.

“We hope this report inspires professionals across the US to continue to build cultures where mental wellbeing is not just a policy, but a practice.”