Starting a company, whether it’s a social enterprise or a regular one, is a high-stress 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 the process of starting company has been detrimental to their well-being.
But the problem is particularly prevalent in the current, stressful environment of funding cuts and a downturn in the startup world.
Still, most founders say they’d 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 released report. Researchers surveyed over 400 early-stage startup founders to assess how entrepreneurship has affected their mental health. The report was created by Startup Snapshot in partnership with Intel Ignite, Econa, Arnon-Tadmor Levy, and The Zell Entrepreneurshi Program.
“The entrepreneurial journey is very stressful, with a lot of uncertainty,” says Yael Benjamin, founder and CEO of Startup Snapshot, which does research into the startup ecosystem. ”But in today’s market, the uncertainty is really high. We’re seeing a huge effect on the mental health of founders.”
Reluctance to Seek Help
Seventy-two percent of founders report that entrepreneurship has impacted their mental health, according to the report, and 37% suffer from anxiety. At the same time, most entrepreneurs seem to grin and bear it, with few doing anything to address the problem. Only 23% have sought help or have seen a psychologist to discuss the issues facing them. Eight-one percent report they do not openly share their stress, fears, and challenges. (Some founders turn to their partner or significant other, with 47% frequently sharing their stress and challenges with their significant other and 41% occasionally sharing).
That reluctance to seek help likely results in part from perceptions, especially among men, that there’s still a stigma around taking such steps. According to the findings, 55% of men believe there’s a stigma compared to only 29% of women. That feeling is also much higher among younger founders, with 59% of those under the age of 35 reporting a stigma, compared to 47% of founders over the age of 35.
Founders are also afraid that sharing their vulnerability could hurt their reputation or chances of success.
“We’ve had lots of conversations with VCs and startups about that they’re going through. We understand this is a big issue, but not spoken about openly.” says Benjamin. “The goal of the research is to begin a conversation that normalizes, and in fact encourages, the admission of the many entrepreneurial challenges and stressors.”
Investors Rank Last
As you might expect, when it comes to whom they turn to for support, investors are ranked in last place. Worried that transparency could affect their chances of securing additional funding, 90% of founders report they don’t discuss their stress with their investors.
While such reticence is understandable, however, it also cuts off founders from a potentially helpful source of advice, according to Benjamin, “Investors have been through this before” she says. “They could be a great support network.”
Despite the toll on their mental health, however, most entrepreneurs seem to find the sacrifice well worth the effort. A whopping 93% of them say they would do it again.
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