It is no secret that depression is more common among entrepreneurs than in the general population. On average, 7% of the population suffers from depression, while a whopping 30% of entrepreneurs suffer from depression. This means that entrepreneurs are more likely to experience anxiety than employees. According to the Gallup-Healthways Welfare Index, 34% of employers reported feeling worried, which is 4 percentage points higher than other workers.
Additionally, 45% of employers said they were stressed, 3 percentage points higher than other workers. The emotional side of entrepreneurship is often overlooked, despite the fact that it is idolized and associated with words such as “freedom” and “autonomy”. A study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley found that 72% of entrepreneurs in the sample reported mental health problems. These included depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance use conditions (12%), and bipolar diagnosis (11%).
Research from England's National Health Service (NHS) shows that one in four adults suffers from mental illness. Being an entrepreneur increases this risk even more. According to research by Michael Freeman, entrepreneurs are 50% more likely to report having a mental health condition, with certain conditions being more prevalent among founders and character traits making them more susceptible to mood swings. Entrepreneurs are known for their lack of sleep, malnutrition, excess caffeine consumption, and financial restrictions.
This was highlighted by the suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of Diaspora, a 22-year-old social networking site. Rebuilding the damage that depression causes in the image of themselves takes time, especially for entrepreneurs who are used to being high-performing. Some of the most successful serial entrepreneurs simply enjoy going for a walk in the open air each day. The three main themes that entrepreneurs identify as triggers for their feelings are co-founders, investors, and relationships (whether at work or at home).
The Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship is the Harvard Business School's champion of business education and training. Kip, a San Francisco-based startup launched by Erin Frey, offers a hybrid of in-person therapy and software services to entrepreneurs and startup employees. Unfortunately, many beginning entrepreneurs don't include therapy in their budget since they don't understand its importance to success. While some entrepreneurs may turn to therapy after a tipping point, not everyone wants or can afford it, especially if they are in the early stages of a new venture.
The University of California, San Francisco and its team investigated mental health problems among entrepreneurs. They challenge business owners, educators and legislators to reconsider toxic tropes about the “entrepreneurial mentality”.