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Entrepreneur Mental Health Issues: What The Statistics Say - OTM

Entrepreneur Mental Health Statistics: The Numbers Don’t Lie

There are qualities that entrepreneurs have that most others don’t:

  • Drive
  • Focus
  • Grit
  • Determination
  • Ambition
  • Hardworking
  • Anxiety?
  • Bipolar Disorder?
  • Depression?
  • Addiction?
  • ADHD?

Does mental illness belong on this list? New research is showing that entrepreneurs are more likely to experience mental illness than their counterparts. 

Why is this? What can science tell us?

Evidence shows that 72% of entrepreneurs are affected by mental illness.

A surprising thirty-two percent of entrepreneurs face two or more mental health conditions.

What is threatening mental health in entrepreneurs? This guide shares all the up-to-date statistics around mental health and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur Mental Health Statistics for Depression

Approximately 30% of entrepreneurs report having depression. This is twice as many as the general population. 

These numbers force us to ask questions.

Why are Entrepreneurs More Likely to Have Depression?

Starting a business comes with many unique challenges. With 90% of start-ups failing within the first year, the pressure is on for entrepreneurs to produce results in the face of almost imminent failure.

Some of the obstacles entrepreneurs face are:

  • Stress: The lack of self-care that is prevalent in entrepreneurs also creates mental and physical stress that takes a toll on mental health.
  • Anxiety Entrepreneurs are often faced with hard choices and the pressure to make the right decision can create extreme anxiety.
  • Isolation: Due to the long hours and focus needed to start and run a business, many entrepreneurs lack the social network needed to maintain good mental health.

Long hours, poor sleep habits, and an often lacking social life contribute to a significant decline in mental health for entrepreneurs.  

One Canadian study found that 62% of business owners felt depressed at least once a week.

Depression for Entrepreneur Statistics Compared to Depression for Non-entrepreneur Statistics

Entrepreneurs are nearly twice as likely to experience depression compared to the general population. While 30% of entrepreneurs struggle with depression, only 15% of non-entrepreneurs reported facing mental illness.  

The contrast is staggering.

The demands of owning and running a business, along with a higher likelihood of predisposition, can threaten to overwhelm entrepreneurs.  

If you are an entrepreneur struggling with depression, know that you are not alone.

Entrepreneur Mental Health Statistics for Bipolar Disorder

According to the study by Michael S. Freeman, 11% of entrepreneurs surveyed reported being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

Why are Entrepreneurs More Likely to Have Bipolar Disorder?

Some of the key characteristics of Bipolar Disorder are shared by entrepreneurs. 

  • Constant desire to start new projects 
  • Hyperfocus
  • Lower aversion to risk 

These all affect those with Bipolar Disorder but are helpful traits when starting a business.  

Perhaps this is why those who face this challenge, like Elon Musk, are so resilient.

Musk tweeted about his “great highs, terrible lows, and unrelenting stress.” While the brilliant entrepreneur was talking about his mental health and possible struggle with Bipolar Disorder, these same words can be used to describe the emotions faced by entrepreneurs every day.

Bi-polar Disorder for Entrepreneur Statistics Compared to Bipolar Disorder for Non-entrepreneur statistics

In his recent student, Freeman reports that 11% of entrepreneurs admitted to having Bipolar Disorder. Only 1% of the non-entrepreneurs surveyed reported struggling with this kind of mental illness.  

Why are entrepreneurs more likely to suffer from Bipolar Disorder? What makes them different?  

One thing science can tell us is that people experiencing Bipolar Disorder are extraordinarily creative. 

If you have Bipolar Disorder, you are among creative geniuses.

Entrepreneur Mental Health Statistics for ADHD

It is estimated that 11% of the US population suffers from ADHD. The occurrence of ADHD in entrepreneurs is nearly triple that number.

Why are Entrepreneurs More Likely to Have ADHD?

What is it about ADHD and entrepreneurship that go together so well?  

Some of the most recognizable symptoms of ADHD are impulsivity and restlessness. Both of these are often found in entrepreneurs and serve them well. These individuals are more likely to make quick decisions and never be satisfied with ‘good enough.’ 

Recently, researchers in the Netherlands found that among the 9,800 college students surveyed, students diagnosed with ADHD were almost twice as likely as other students to start a business. 

While it may be years before science figures out which came first, the entrepreneur or ADHD, one thing is for sure: the two go hand in hand.

If you are an entrepreneur struggling with ADHD, you are in good company.

ADHD for Entrepreneur Statistics Compared to ADHD for Non-entrepreneur Statistics

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder is six times more common in entrepreneurs. In the Freeman study, only 5% of adults surveyed reported having ADHD, while 29% of entrepreneurs admitted to having the disorder.

Are people with ADHD just drawn to being entrepreneurs?  

Perhaps so. According to a study published by Bogan, Fertig, and Just, there is a “pull effect” that lures those with mental illness to seek out entrepreneurship instead of more traditional employment.  

Being an entrepreneur better suits the strengths and characteristics of individuals with ADHD.

Entrepreneur Mental Health Statistics for Anxiety Disorders

The numbers for anxiety disorders in entrepreneurs is surprisingly unremarkable.  

Approximately 27% of entrepreneurs reported dealing with some type of anxiety, only one percent higher than the rest of the population.

Why are Entrepreneurs More Likely to Have Anxiety Disorders?

Most of us will struggle with anxiety at some point, but the pressures faced by entrepreneurs are unique. While most people worry about putting food on their own tables, entrepreneurs worry about feeding the entire village.

Common symptoms:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Feelings of worry
  • Difficulties sleeping

Have you experienced any of these?  If so, you are not the only one.

Anxiety Disorders for Entrepreneur Statistics Compared to Anxiety Disorders for Non-entrepreneur Statistics

There is not a notable difference in the likelihood of experiencing anxiety between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs.  

Recent research shows that 27% of entrepreneurs report having some type of anxiety disorder while 26% of non-entrepreneurs responded they deal with anxiety.

Entrepreneur Mental Health Statistics for Substance Abuse Disorders

Entrepreneurs are three times more likely to deal with addiction and substance abuse issues.

Recent research shows that nearly one-third of those who struggle with addiction and substance abuse also report facing one or more types of mental illness.

Are entrepreneurs at higher risk? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Why are Entrepreneurs More Likely to Have Substance Abuse Disorders?

Research shows that 12% of entrepreneurs report abusing one or more substances.  

Besides the normal culprits of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, entrepreneurs also seem more likely to have other addictions. Behavioral addictions also plague entrepreneurs.

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Compulsive drive
  • Withdrawal-engagement cycles
  • Passionate nature

All of these qualities are signs of addictive behavior. These traits are also common among entrepreneurs and can be symptoms of other mental illnesses.  

Whether it is compulsive gambling, excessive drug or alcohol use, or opioid dependence, if you are an entrepreneur facing these struggles, you are part of a community.

Substance Abuse Disorders for Entrepreneur Statistics Compared to Substance Abuse Disorders for Non-entrepreneur Statistics

An estimated 20 million Americans struggle with substance abuse disorders.  This translates to 12% of entrepreneurs but only 4% of non-entrepreneurs.

Many people don’t realize that an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a mental illness, but studies show this behavior is not a choice, but a compulsion.

And it is a compulsion that entrepreneurs are three times more likely to face.

To hear stories of other entrepreneurs with mental health challenges, check out these episodes from Overcoming the Mind.