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08 April 2021

Toll of pandemic on entrepreneurs' mental health revealed in new report

A global study by King’s Business School into the impact of the pandemic on entrepreneurs’ businesses and mental well-being has found that stress worsened during the crisis and that life satisfaction was on average 12% lower than before the pandemic. The academics recommend five practical steps for entrepreneurs to protect their well-being so SME’s can thrive in a post-Covid economy.


The report Entrepreneurship during the Covid-19 Pandemic: A global study of entrepreneurs’ challenges, resilience, and well-being highlights that many entrepreneurs have seen their livelihoods and their mental well-being threatened over the past year and have been particularly impacted by the pandemic because they have fewer resources than large businesses. Whilst entrepreneurs are known for their agility, the significant challenges they have faced range from late paying customers to lack of access to government support. This was combined with the uncertainty and health-related worries, restricted social contact and support, all of which diminished entrepreneurs’ mental well-being. But the research shows that through entrepreneurs’ capacity to be resilient over half of respondents can bounce back from adversity and cope with the setbacks, uncertainty, and stress that the pandemic entail.

The researchers surveyed over 5,000 entrepreneurs in 23 countries that represent 3/4 of the world’s economic output and over half of the world’s population including the UK, France, Germany, India, USA and China. The key findings include:

  • Two fifths of entrepreneurs (39.7%) report high levels of uncertainty and unpredictability for their businesses.
  • Most entrepreneurs worry about their own and their family health (57.7%), fewer are worried about insufficient medical care (33.5% with substantial variation across countries).
  • Over half (57%) experienced good emotional support (others being willing to listen to their work-related problems most or all of the time). Yet less than a third were able to draw on practical hands-on support (32%) and informal financial help (28%, with substantial variation across countries).
  • Nearly half of entrepreneurs (48.8%) were frustrated by the restricted social contact due to the pandemic. Despite high levels of remote working, only 15% of entrepreneurs reported loneliness at work as problematic. There is a need to build awareness of the mental health implications of home working, especially when it is adopted as a permanent way of organizing work. As one entrepreneur put it ‘remote working is now more socially acceptable, and so we may ditch our office altogether (SME entrepreneur from the UK).
  • 50% of entrepreneurs found enough time to mentally recover from work.
  • 61% of entrepreneurs saw the very existence of their business under threat in the pandemic, and the associated stress also impacted entrepreneurs’ self-care, which is critical for maintaining mental health. Only half of entrepreneurs in the study found enough time to recover from work stress and 44% reported not get sufficient sleep.

Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the global economy, but it is only recently that we are starting to take their mental health seriously. Given the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, understanding the experience of entrepreneurs in these difficult times as well as the outlook they have for what lies ahead are critical to sustain small businesses. Crises aside, entrepreneurs’ work is highly demanding in general yet ‘being one’s own boss’ is also intensely rewarding which means that the stresses of entrepreneurs’ work sometimes go unnoticed and that’s when burn-out can happen.

Professor Ute Stephan, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Lead Researcher

Drawing from the science of well-being and latest research on entrepreneurs’ stress, well-being, and resilience. The researchers summarize five easy steps that entrepreneurs can take to deal with stress productively and to support their mental well-being and build resilience which include acknowledging and seeking help and making time for recovery from stress.


Professor Stephan commented further: “The mental well-being and resilience of entrepreneurs underpins the success of their businesses. Whilst entrepreneurs frequently face set-backs in managing their businesses, resilience helps them to cope with the uncertainty and stress that these challenges entail. We are encouraged to see that UK entrepreneurs are amongst the top rated for psychological resilience alongside Australia, USA and Sweden. Our entrepreneurs have protected their businesses during the most difficult circumstances due to this resilience but they must now take steps to protect their mental well-being to ensure their businesses thrive in a post-Covid economy.”

In this story

Ute  Stephan

Professor of Entrepreneurship

Przemysław (Przemek)  Zbierowski

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow in Entrepreneurship