NEWS

Nearly Half of Americans Have Considered Changing Jobs Recently

Woman quitting job

Verywell / Julie Bang

For this edition of the Verywell Mind Mental Health Tracker, we discuss job satisfaction, and what has employees looking elsewhere.

To find out what previous surveys said about the state of mental health in the U.S., check out our previous releases.

It should come as no surprise that Americans are stressed, and perhaps even less of a surprise that financial worries represent a major ongoing source of that stress. Even in the best of times, many Americans are worried about money.

For millions of Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant illness, loss, grief, employment uncertainty—things that may ultimately impact our ability to make money or maintain a stable financial situation. The latest Verywell Mind survey, however, shows that some of these anxieties are manifesting in interesting ways—specifically with regards to how Americans are thinking about work at the start of 2022.

Over the last 30 days, 46% of workers have considered looking for a new job, and 4 in 10 Americans are more broadly considering a new job or change of employment in 2022. The so-called "Great Resignation," which has seen employees leaving their jobs in record numbers, really looks like more of a Great Relocation as workers seek better pay, more flexibility, improved work-life balance, and greater benefits (be they financial, mental health-related, or otherwise).

In short, it seems that workers have grown more aware of the possibility of more desirable work situations, and they are acting on that knowledge.

Financial Stress Is a Major Factor in Overall Mental Health

For the last several months, our surveys have shown that financial concerns outweighed COVID-19 as the biggest source of stress for Americans. For this latest survey, 31% of Americans named finances as their top stressor, followed by COVID-19 at 20%.

While our fears around COVID have waxed and waned in response to vaccines, new waves, and more, money has remained top of mind, with nearly 1 in 3 Americans (31%) saying that they worry about their finances every day.

Over 1 in 4 Americans, meanwhile, have been worried about affording basic necessities like food and housing. Moreover, those who cite financial problems as their biggest source of stress are more likely to suffer from poor sleep (61% vs 22%), changes in appetite (36% vs 23%), and negative self-talk (27% and 14%).

What Stressful Work Environments Can Do to Our Mental Health

Those who have considered quitting are more likely to acknowledge that their job is impacting their mental health, and often in a bad way

Because work is so tied to our finances, these stressors become intertwined in ways that have significant impacts. During COVID, many Americans have reflected on their daily lives and what is most important to them.

And many have reprioritized to focus on a healthier work-life balance—but for many, financial needs still come first, which maintains the cycle of work and financial stress even as folks look for a better situation.

Turning Financial Stress Into a Push for Change

Clearly, financial problems are not good for mental health, but the hunger for change that we're seeing suggests that folks are more willing to take action if there is opportunity to improve their situation. While we always advocate for small steps toward self-improvement, sometimes a big change is needed.

Amongst those who have considered quitting, 49% say they plan to see a mental health professional in 2022. Also, 68% say they intentionally take steps to improve their mental health on a weekly basis. Americans are not just thinking about these stressors more—they are also thinking about how to cope with them more effectively in the future.

Of course, quitting or changing a job is a significant method of change as well.

Younger Americans Are Taking Action

This move towards action is largely driven by younger workers, with 51% of Gen Z planning on a job change in 2022, followed by 48% of Millennials, 33% of Gen X, and 20% of Boomers. That said, there is a much more equitable spread in terms of who has thought about quitting in the last month:

  • 34% of Boomers
  • 32% of Gen Z and Gen X
  • 26% of Millennials

Not surprisingly, those seeking a job change are more likely to have less security in their current situation. Individuals who rely on tips or gratuity, or who work in temporary or contract jobs, are far more likely than not to be considering a job change. For the former, circumstances around COVID and personal health and safety may play a large role in desiring a change.

Burnout—a Hidden Epidemic?

Given the constant stressors surrounding the work lives of Americans—the need to provide for themselves and their loved ones, to afford healthcare, to save up for a home or retirement—it's no wonder that 58% of workers have experienced burnout from their job over the last year. Additionally, 40% of people have felt burned out multiple times.

Those numbers increase for individuals who worry about their finances daily—with 68% experiencing burnout in the last year and 52% experiencing it multiple times.

For folks who rely on steady work to maintain their livelihood, the intertwining of financial worries and regular job stress would seem to make burnout inevitable. With financial concerns understandably coming first, the ability for Americans to identify their job as a means of personal happiness, fulfillment, and self-worth may be strained as those values are stripped away in favor of more immediate needs, such as putting food on the table or filling their gas tank.

While the increased awareness and acknowledgment of mental health struggles during the pandemic is a net positive when it leads to self-care, there may be a downside in the event that meaningful change is not possible.

For individuals who literally cannot afford to take time off, living with that day-to-day mental health struggle is a significant stressor. While it may not be possible to untether work output from our ability to provide, the cascade of workers looking for something new is a signal that Americans at least remain hopeful that something better is possible.

Methodology

The Verywell Mind Mental Health Tracker is an ongoing measurement of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors around their mental health. The survey is fielded online, beginning April 28, 2021, to 4,000 adults living in the U.S. The total sample matches U.S. Census estimates for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and region.

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