Starting a business, be it a social enterprise or a regular business, is a stressful endeavor and not for everyone. But does it harm founders’ mental health? The answer, according to a new report, is yes. In fact, many startup founders say that the process of starting a business has been detrimental to their well-being.
But the problem is especially prevalent in today’s stressful environment of budget cuts and a downturn in the startup world.
Still, most founders say they would do it again.
That’s according to The Untold Toll: The impact of stress on the well-being of startup founders and CEOs, a recently published report. Researchers surveyed more than 400 early-stage startup founders to assess how entrepreneurship has impacted their mental health. The report was created by Boot snapshot in association with ignite intel, EconaArnon-Tadmor Levy and the Zell Entrepreneurshi Program.
“The entrepreneurial journey is very stressful, with a lot of uncertainty,” said Yael Benjamin, founder and CEO of Startup Snapshot, which researches the startup ecosystem. ”But in the current market the uncertainty is very high. We see a huge effect on the mental health of founders.”
Reluctance to seek help
Seventy-two percent of founders report that entrepreneurship has affected their mental health, according to the report, and 37% suffer from anxiety. At the same time, most business owners seem to be chuckling and putting up with it, while few are doing anything to address the problem. Only 23% have sought help or seen a psychologist to discuss the issues they are facing. Eighty-one percent say they do not openly share their stress, fears, and challenges. (Some founders turn to their spouse or partner, with 47% regularly sharing their stress and challenges with their partner and 41% occasionally sharing).
That reluctance to seek help is likely due in part to perceptions, especially among men, that there is still a stigma attached to taking such steps. According to the findings, 55% of men believe there is a stigma, compared to only 29% of women. That feeling is also much higher among younger founders: 59% of those under 35 years of age report a stigma, compared to 47% of founders over 35 years old.
Founders also fear that sharing their vulnerability could damage their reputation or chances of success.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with VCs and startups about what they’re going through. We understand that this is a big problem, but it is not openly discussed.” says Benjamin. “The aim of the research is to spark a conversation that normalizes and even encourages acceptance of the many entrepreneurial challenges and stressors.”
Investors are in last place
As you might expect, investors are in last place when it comes to who they turn to for support. Concerned that transparency could hurt their chances of obtaining additional funding, 90% of founders report not discussing their stress with their investors.
While such reluctance is understandable, it also cuts the founders off from a potentially useful source of advice, according to Benjamin: “Investors have been through this before,” she says. “They can be a great support network.”
Despite the toll on their mental health, most entrepreneurs seem to find the sacrifice worthwhile. A whopping 93% of them say they would do it again.