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A Wellbeing Culture for U.K. Construction Workers

The global construction industry is interconnected, and so are its workers. When construction companies in one country improve their wellbeing culture, that proves contagious for others—in all the right ways.
By Bagnalls
May 7, 2024

As of 2024, more than one in seven adults in the United Kingdom say their mental health is either poor or the worst it has ever been. The U.K.'s National Health Service spends more than £300 billion a year dealing with the consequences of poor mental health, and the crisis isn’t going to heal overnight.

The increasing pressure on mental-health services is highlighting the continued stigma around mental health, especially in the workplace and male-dominated fields, such as the construction sector.

Outdated attitudes persist in some construction businesses, in part due to culture and difficulty accessing mental-health support. But, with government data revealing that 822,000 people have suffered from health problems due to stress, depression or anxiety caused by work, it’s time to ask why the construction sector has fallen behind when it comes to addressing mental-health issues.

Despite this, steps are being made in the right direction. Construction companies are starting to open up the conversation around mental health, introducing Mental Health First Aiders into the workplace and providing additional mental-health support. With insights provided by national decorating contractors Bagnalls, let’s take a look into how and why attitudes are changing in the construction sector across the globe.


U.K.-based charity Mates in Mind has found that over two-thirds of construction workers believe there’s a stigma around mental health, which is stopping them from talking about their issues. This is further exacerbated when you consider that construction is a male-dominated sector, consisting of 83% male-identifying workers.

Dated beliefs around masculinity still exist within the sector’s workplace culture, as well as high rates of suicide among male-identifying workers. Sadly, men working in construction are 3.7 times more likely to die from suicide than women—that’s two men every day. What’s more, 26% are reported to have experienced suicidal thoughts and 48% have taken time off due to unmanageable stress.

For a construction company to be responsible for the welfare of its staff, it must address this crisis by opening up communication channels and ensuring that mental health doesn’t remain a taboo subject amongst the workforce.

This doesn’t just mean addressing problems as they arise, it also means tackling the roots of the problem.

According to Unite, “working away from home, long hours, isolation and loneliness make it more likely that construction workers could develop a gambling problem. ”Previous studies have shown that gamblers are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, putting those who work in construction at further risk.


With the U.K. in recession and mental-health services struggling under the strain, it’s important to address the underlying issues that perpetuate mental illness at work. Over the last two years, stress, anxiety and depression at work accounted for 49% of work-related illnesses. This resulted in 17.1 million days off, costing businesses £56 billion annually.

In recent years there has been a surge in individuals seeking support from NHS mental-health services, with requests for assistance exceeding one million in the last five years. Since 2020, Britons have grappled with successive COVID-19 lockdowns, compounded by escalating energy bills, a significant rise in the cost of living and a recession.

ONS research has found that those who are struggling to afford housing bills or energy costs are more likely to show signs of depression. The same can also be said for those who rent, indicating a link between fiscal security and our mental health.

A recent report from the HSE identifies five causes of mental-health issues within the construction industry: physical strain, job insecurity, long hours and stigmatization. Job insecurity in particular is made worse by tightening budgets and rigid deadlines piling on the pressure, as well as personal finance problems leading to excessive overtime and further burnout.


There are many charities and organizations across the country offering resources to help tackle the mental-health crisis within the construction industry.

MHFA England supports workplaces across various industries by offering tailored training and resources. Intending to educateone-in-10 individuals in mental-health awareness and skills, the organization aims to dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health and foster an environment where discussing mental wellbeing is embraced.

The Mental Health First Aider course equips members of companies or organizations with the ability to listen attentively, provide reassurance and respond effectively to individuals who are struggling with their mental health.

For those who find it hard to initiate conversations about their mental health, Wellness Action Plans can serve as a valuable alternative. These plans help employers understand their staff requirements and concerns, making conversations that may be perceived as uncomfortable easier to navigate.

Various strategies can be adopted by construction companies to cultivate a more transparent culture, like an employee assistance program accessible at all times. 

Joanne Gualda, marketing director at Bagnalls, says of these efforts: “Providing proper mental-health support should be a requirement for businesses in any sector, but companies working in construction have a particular responsibility. By partnering with Andy’s Man Club and training our staff members to become Mental Health First Aiders, we hope to raise awareness and reduce the high suicide rate amongst people working in the construction industry.”

by Bagnalls
A family-owned business for 145 years, Bagnalls provides commercial and specialist painting and decorating services for a wide range of sectors. Bagnalls’ people-first approach informs everything it does, from regular support for community projects and charities to investment in mental-health training and support for staff.

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