Emotional, psychological and social wellbeing has been on the political and media agendas, especially after the confinement of 2020, a period which, according to experts, has had a significant impact on citizens’ mental health.
The communication sector is no stranger to this type of problem. This is confirmed by the Madrid Press Association in its 2022 Annual Report on the Journalism Profession, which shows through the responses of more than 1,300 professionals that workers in communication companies such as agencies or consultancies – far from what is usually said in the guild – do not “live better” than journalists working in the media.
The rate of professionals suffering from these problems is considered to be similar in both fields. Stress is the condition from which employees suffer most. In newsrooms, 78% of staff have experienced it, the same figure as among freelance journalists. In communication companies, this percentage is also recorded for contract employees, while for freelancers it rises to 85%.
Fatigue is the second most common mental health problem. It is suffered at exactly the same level by journalists as by communication professionals, with no notable distinction between contract and freelance workers, who account for around 70%.
Communication professionals suffer more anxiety than journalists, according to the APM. The third most common health problem in the sector affects or has affected 58% of workers in communication companies as employees and 68% as freelancers, while in the case of the media, 62% and 54%, respectively.
These health problems are followed, in this order: difficulties in concentrating at work, sight problems, insomnia or sleep problems, feelings of loneliness and depression.
“It is no longer taboo”
Spanish investigative journalist and data analyst Mar Cabra is one of the professionals who admits to having suffered mental health problems caused by work. She says in the report that “the issue of journalists’ mental health is no longer taboo” and proposes greater involvement of editorial areas and their managers, so that the issue is not just taken up by human resources departments.
“Journalists, as human beings, need periods of rest, disconnection and energy recharge, because that’s how the nervous system works. More and more journalists are becoming aware of this and what is missing now is for media companies to do the same,” she says.
The workplace can be the focus of the problem. In fact, 84% of journalists working in the media consider that their work has a great or considerable influence on their state of health, and a slightly lower percentage (78%) of freelancers also think so.
In communication, the figures are also very similar: 82% of those working for companies and 89% of freelancers also consider that work has a great or considerable influence on their general health.
Experts point out that the causes that can lead to these problems include both the inherent qualities of the profession, such as hyperconnection or the processing of conflicting information, and circumstantial factors such as the worries generated by unemployment and job insecurity.