Is running a business bad for your health?

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Date: 11 February 2020

Headache in office

A new survey has found that two-thirds of start-up founders attribute personal health issues to their hectic working lives.

The survey of 504 start-up leaders has been conducted by consumer health company RB in collaboration with start-up community Startup Grind. Its findings show that a worrying 67% of start-up leaders say their busy schedules and the stress of starting a business are contributing to their declining health.

Almost half (49%) of start-up founders work over 50 hours a week, with one in four (28%) putting in over 60 hours. This is significantly higher than the 37.1 hours that the average UK worker spends at their job.

As a result, 38% say they suffer with insomnia or poor sleep, while 26% have mental health complaints, including stress, anxiety and depression. Healthy habits also tend to go out of the window for business owners, with 34% saying that their work has had a negative impact on their diet.

However, 78% of the business founders polled said they were inspired to launch their business by a desire to improve people's lives; one in five (22%) even said they were motivated by the condition/health of a family member, friend or loved one.

Asked what business activities were contributing to their stress levels, 74% named funding, investment and/or cashflow as a top-three stress factor. Access to talent and recruitment was second, cited by over a third (39%), followed by innovation and R&D (33%).

"Stress and burnout are incredibly common within the start-up community and these issues don't go away as businesses become more established," said Alex Gordon-Furse, director, Startup Program at Startup Grind.

"Leaders are constantly tackling new challenges. Even those that have a concrete business plan and access to funding will be grappling with something, whether it's regulation or how to take their offering to market. During this period, leaders pour their heart, soul and numerous hours into getting their business off the ground and making it a success. This dedication can have negative repercussions on their health."

On a brighter note, however, many start-up founders reported improved personal lives because of their work - 41% said launching their own business had improved their relationships with family members and 38% said they are in a better position financially.

RB is looking to partner with healthcare and health tech start-ups and innovators on the next generation of consumer health products. "We share start-ups' passion for wanting to create a world where people lead healthier and happier lives," said Dr Philip Bolton, interim VP innovation at RB. "At the same time, we also know that we can learn a lot from start-ups and improve and grow our own business by taking their agility on board and learning from their approach."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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