JAN 28, 2022 6:06 PM PST

The Great Resignation: How the Pandemic Gave Employees the Upper Hand in Prioritizing Mental Health

WRITTEN BY: Alexandria Bass

In the United States and other western countries, people are leaving their jobs in record numbers. An estimated 38 million workers in the US are reported to have quit their jobs in 2021. That's nearly 25% of the American workforce. They have become a part of what is known as the Great Resignation. What's driving this empowerment of people to so confidently leave their jobs in our post-vaccine world where the workplace is supposedly safer?

In the beginning of the pandemic, business came to a halt and employers laid off workers in droves. In the spring of 2021 when COVID went quiet and vaccines were rolled out, people started leaving their houses and consuming services again. Industries that tried hiring but continued to have staffing shortages, like the food service, hospitality and healthcare industries, assumed they couldn't find workers because people were still receiving unemployment. But once those benefits were scaled back, the staffing shortages continued.

The suspected reasons are many. People were pushed into retirement at the beginning of the pandemic. Women left the workforce to raise their children when childcare was no longer available. The economy rebounded too quickly compared to how long some people are able to live off of their benefits and savings. Whatever the reasons, the number of open jobs remains higher than the number of unemployed workers - for the roughly 7 million unemployed people, roughly 10 million open jobs exist. 

This short supply of workers gave employees the surprising upper hand to walk away from jobs they found dissatisfying, including those that compromised their mental health, because work was available in other industries or with better companies.

According to studies published in The Lancet, mental health disorders account for 18% of the global disease burden and more cases of depression were associated with the pandemic, especially for younger age groups.

Based on surveys, 81% of Gen Zs and two-thirds of millennials who left their jobs last year cited mental health as their driving reason. In another survey of 1,000 full-time workers who were considering quitting their jobs, the top reason was a lack of appreciation at the workplace.

The US is not alone in this trend. The UK, Germany, Spain and Japan are experiencing their own great resignations as employees seek a better work-life balance for better mental health.

Sources: Business Insider, Forbes, Grow, The Lancet, The Lancet, Fortune, Fast Company



About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Alexandria (Alex) is a freelance science writer with a passion for educating the public on health issues. Her other professional experience includes working as a speech-language pathologist in health care, a research assistant in a food science laboratory, and an English teaching assistant in Spain. In her spare time, Alex enjoys cycling, lap swimming, jogging, and reading.
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