Are Entrepreneurs More Prone to Depression?

It is no secret that entrepreneurs are more prone to depression than the average population. On average, 7% of the population suffers from depression, while a whopping 30% of entrepreneurs suffer from depression. This is further evidenced by the latest Gallup-Healthways welfare index, which showed that 34% of employers reported feeling worried, and 45% reported feeling stressed - both figures being higher than those of 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 by the University of California at Berkeley found that 72% of entrepreneurs in their sample reported mental health problems. These included depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance use conditions (12%), and bipolar diagnosis (11%). Research from England's NHS shows that one in four adults suffer from mental illness, and being an entrepreneur increases this risk even further. 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.

In an attempt to combat the stigma of depression and anxiety that makes it difficult for patients to seek help, more entrepreneurs have started talking about their internal struggles. The University of California, San Francisco and its team investigated mental health problems among entrepreneurs. Their latest book, The Entrepreneurial Myth, examines why entrepreneurs suffer more from poor mental health than the general population. It is essential that entrepreneurs recovering from depression place the episode within a broader context.

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. Entrepreneurs often juggle many roles and face countless setbacks (loss of customers, disputes with partners, increased competition, personnel problems), all while struggling to pay payroll. Entrepreneurs have a reputation (which barely precedes them) for lack of sleep, malnutrition, excess caffeine and financial restrictions. Instead, Dubowec encourages entrepreneurs to take a step back and examine the experience of depression within a broader context.

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