More than half of Australia’s small business owners experience mental health issues

02 Sep 2019

More than half (56%) of small business operators say running their own business has led to feelings of anxiety or depression, with nearly half (48%) of all respondents reporting anxiety was largely caused by financial and cashflow concerns, according to a fresh survey conducted by MYOB.

MYOB surveyed 757 Australian small business operators to understand the extent to which mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, affected the small business community and how much this was directly linked to running a business. Concerningly, 43% of respondents reported that since starting a business, they have experienced some form of mental health condition. This percentage rose to 52% of respondents for business operators aged under 40.

MYOB’s Chief Employee Experience Officer, Helen Lea, is concerned about the connection between the pressures of being in business and mental health.

“We know from previous research that cashflow is a major pressure point for small business*, however, this new data suggests its impact runs much deeper than the books. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Australian economy, and we need to support them. That means creating environments in which they can thrive and thinking of ways we can eliminate the points of stress we know exist, like late payments,” said Ms Lea.

The data found that businesses with more employees are most likely to be affected, with 62% of business operators with between five and nine employees reporting they had experienced a mental health condition, versus 38% of sole traders. In addition, the incidence of stress was higher in businesses with employees; 12% of business owners reported experiencing stress, versus 4% of sole traders.


Top challenges for small business owners

1.     Financial concerns and cashflow (48%)

2.     Attracting and/or retaining customers (13%)

3.     Not having enough family time (12%)

4.     Not having enough time to do the work (12%)

The survey also drilled into ways of dealing with feelings of anxiety or stress. When asked where respondents are most likely to go for advice when they’re feeling stressed, most replied family (47%), while their GP came second (31%) and friends third (28%).


In terms of how the people they turn to can provide support, nearly three quarters (71%) of small business operators said it would be beneficial for their family and friends to have access to resources about mental health at work. Concerningly, of those who said it would not be beneficial, 11% said it was because they wanted to keep their situation private.


Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Adviser Dr Grant Blashki encouraged business owners who felt stressed, anxious or depressed to seek support.

“While it is normal to feel pressure when running a small business, you don’t have to face the challenges alone,” said Dr Blashki.


“Mental health support for small business owners can be as simple as talking to family, friends, peers and co-workers, or their GP, about how they are feeling.”


He said Beyond Blue was developing resources for advisors, family and friends of small business owners to help them play this support role to complement information already available for people who want to create mentally healthy workplaces but aren’t quite sure how.


“Research shows that mentally healthy workplaces attract and keep top talent, get the best out of everyone and provide a strong return on their wellbeing investment,” said Dr Blashki.


“Taking a proactive approach to your own health and wellbeing can assist in overcoming challenges, build healthy relationships and work more productively.”


Mental health professionals are available at the Beyond Blue Support Service via phone 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via for online chat (3PM – 12AM AEST or email responses (within 24 hours).


For further comment or other information please contact:

Collette Betts


About MYOB

MYOB is a leading provider of online business management solutions. MYOB makes business life easier for approximately 1.2 million businesses across Australia and New Zealand by simplifying accounting, payroll, tax, practice management, CRM, job costing, inventory and more. MYOB operates across three core segments – Clients and Partners (business solutions to SMEs and Advisers); Enterprise Solutions (larger businesses) and Payment Solutions. We also provide ongoing support via many client service channels including a network of over 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and other consultants. We are committed to ongoing innovation, particularly through our Connected Practice Strategy and through the development of the MYOB Platform. For more information visit or follow @MYOB on Twitter.

About the research

The research was conducted by Gundabluey on behalf of MYOB between the 24 June and 3 July 2019 and gathered the responses of 757 small business operators. Questions were crafted in collaboration with Beyond Blue.

* MYOB’s May Business Monitor found cashflow to be the third business pressure most likely to cause small business a lot to extreme concern this year at 35%, up 7 points from 28% in October 2018.