93% of UK tradespeople have been impacted by mental ill health according to new research
● Almost three-quarters (73%) of UK tradespeople surveyed said they are experiencing mental ill
health right now or have done so in the past; tradespeople are 26% more likely than workers in
other industries to experience mental ill health in the UK.
● Absenteeism due to mental ill health costs the construction industry almost £2.75 billion annually.
● More than 8 in 10 tradespeople who lone work (84%) experience mental ill health.
● 65% of UK tradespeople surveyed reported that their own financial situation directly impacts their
● 64% of UK tradespeople surveyed reported misusing drugs, alcohol, or both drugs and alcohol in
an attempt to mitigate symptoms of mental ill health.
● Almost half (48%) of UK tradespeople surveyed told us they knew at least one person who has
left the industry due to mental ill health.
A new report has revealed that 93% of UK tradespeople have been impacted by mental ill health in some
way, with 73% of all UK tradespeople surveyed experiencing mental ill health right now or in the past. A
further 20% hadn’t personally experienced mental ill health but knew another tradesperson who had.
Behind the High-Vis: a Mental Health White Paper has been created by the UK’s largest and most
engaged construction community, On The Tools, and supported by Band of Builders, Construction Sport,
Dulux Academy, Dulux Select Decorators, Speedy, and TVL security, with useful input from other partners
and case study participants, to explore the full scale and impact of mental ill health in the construction
industry, as well as make informed recommendations to reduce the issue.
Timed to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 15th May 2023 to Sunday 21st May
2023), Behind the High-Vis: a Mental Health White Paper highlights the particular prevalence of anxiety,
the theme and focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, with 62% of UK tradespeople
surveyed reported experiencing anxiety.
The white paper highlights that age, trade type, gender, length of employment and level of seniority can
affect the likelihood of a tradesperson experiencing mental ill health. Half of UK tradespeople surveyed
who have experienced mental ill health have mid-level positions and 100% of UK general
builders/multi-trades surveyed reported experiencing depression and/or anxiety. Of the UK tradeswomen
surveyed, 28% were more likely to experience mental ill health than their male counterparts.
The most common factor that directly impacts a tradesperson’s mental health is their own finances, with
65% highlighting it as a contributing issue. The research also found that trade-specific factors, such as
lone working, impacted a tradesperson’s mental health. In particular, the findings show that 84% of
tradespeople who lone work experience mental ill health, predominantly depression and anxiety.
The most frequent symptom experienced by UK tradespeople surveyed is low motivation; 69% of UK
tradespeople surveyed reported experiencing low motivation as a symptom of their mental ill health and
64% of UK tradespeople surveyed reported misusing drugs, alcohol, or both drugs and alcohol in an
attempt to mitigate these symptoms of mental ill health. One anonymous survey participant said: “I felt like
I didn’t want to eat, so I struggled because I had no energy. Then I wouldn’t sleep well. I’d get slower and
slower. The standard of my work dropped. I just didn’t want to be there.”
The report also explores the effects of mental ill health beyond tradespeople themselves with economic
repercussions. On The Tools found that absenteeism due to mental ill health costs the construction
industry almost £2.75 billion annually. Combined, the UK tradespeople surveyed had missed 2631 weeks
(equivalent to 50 and a half years) of work in 2022 due to mental ill health.
Just under half (47%) of UK tradespeople surveyed reported they felt either somewhat or completely
unsupported by their workplace(s) when experiencing mental ill health. Comparably, only 28% stated they
felt somewhat or completely unsupported by their workplace(s) when they were experiencing mental ill
However, there are measures that businesses can put in place to ensure that UK tradespeople
experiencing mental ill health feel more supported at work. For example, 41% of all UK tradespeople
surveyed reported that they would find the provision of free counselling by their workplace(s) to be a
helpful system to support them when they experience mental ill health.
Commenting on the findings of the whitepaper, CEO and Co-founder of On The Tools, Lee Wilcox, said:
“There has been an alarming increase in mental ill health among the UK population for some time now.
While significant steps have been made, and mental health is starting to be treated as seriously as
physical health, it seems only recently that men as a demographic have been able to openly share their
experiences with mental ill health to the extent they deserve. In an industry that men currently dominate,
it’s no wonder that the construction sector is behind the times when treating our workforce’s mental
“This report proves, among other things, that untreated mental ill health has cost the UK a healthy and
motivated construction industry workforce. The scale of this issue is now too pressing for the UK
Government to ignore. We hope that the findings and recommendations of this report can enact real
change and improve the health of our tradespeople.”
This white paper was supported by Band of Builders, Construction Sport, Dulux Academy, Dulux Select
Decorators, Speedy, and TVL security: with useful input from other partners and case study participants.