The Hidden Mental Health Costs of Entrepreneurship

Certainty News Staff

Entrepreneurs navigate a unique set of challenges, from meeting soaring expectations to grappling with financial instability and strained relationships, all of which can take a toll on mental health.

Paradoxically the traits that make entrepreneurs exceptional at their jobs and instrumental for success — such as creativity, passion, competitiveness, and risk-taking —  may make them more susceptible to mental health challenges, from anxiety and depression to suicide.

The Mental Health Risk to Small Business Owners

Entrepreneurs, who are often small business owners, literally put in work by carrying America’s economy on their shoulders. Small businesses are defined as independent companies with fewer than 500 employees.  

In the past 25 years, small businesses have accounted for two out of every three jobs added — a net 12.9 million jobs, according to the “Small Business Job Creation” paper by the Small Business Administration. For context, during that same period, large businesses only generated 6.7 million net new jobs over the past 25 years, the study said.

“Entrepreneurs create the vast majority of new jobs, pull economies out of recessions, introduce useful products and services, and create prosperity,” according to a study led by a group of University of California researchers. The study, "Are Entrepreneurs Touched with Fire?” sought to better understand the mental health of entrepreneurs. Led by psychiatrist Michael A. Freeman, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University, the paper said that it is important “to understand the cognitive, affective, and behavioral strengths and vulnerabilities of entrepreneurs.”

Out of 242 entrepreneurs studied, 72% reported mental health concerns, a much higher number than the comparison group. Forty-nine percent said they had one or more lifetime mental health conditions; 325 said they had two more. The entrepreneurs self-reported having ADHD, bipolar disorder, and depression at elevated levels.

Destigmatizing Mental Health in the Business Community

Despite challenges, entrepreneurs often possess optimism, a crucial trait in navigating uncertainties and pursuing opportunities.

One way to nurture optimism is to destigmatize mental health, although it may seem easier said than done. Entrepreneurs, after all, trade in capitalism which isn’t the kindest to a balanced lifestyle. In capitalism, individuals who are reliant on others or lack efficiency are deemed unsuccessful.

However, it’s good for the company’s bottom line to have a thriving CEO. If the founder of the company isn’t healthy then the enterprise can’t be healthy. “Fish rots from the head down,” the saying goes. Investors need to lead by example, by showing founders that it’s okay to be vulnerable and open up about their mental health. Founders of companies should also be encouraged to seek professional help when needed. Asking for help is the new leading by example.

Furthermore, investment funds can include mental health resources as part of their packages. This could include access to mental health professionals, wellness programs, and other resources that can help entrepreneurs manage their mental health.

Prioritizing Self-Care

For business owners navigating the demanding landscape of entrepreneurship, practicing self-care is indispensable for long-term success and well-being. Setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, delegating tasks, and prioritizing responsibilities based on urgency are essential strategies to prevent burnout. Regular breaks, incorporating exercise into daily routines, and embracing mindfulness techniques contribute to both physical and mental health. 

Disconnecting from work-related communication during non-working hours and fostering a support system through mentorship or networking groups helps manage stress. Continuous learning and celebrating achievements cultivate a positive mindset while planning regular vacations and prioritizing quality sleep are integral components of self-care. 

Recognizing that self-care is not a luxury but a necessity ensures that business owners can sustain their entrepreneurial journey with resilience and fulfillment.

Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Entrepreneurs navigating the challenges of the business world may encounter warning signs indicating a decline in their mental health. These include: 

  • Increased stress levels
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Reduced concentration
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unexplained physical symptoms
  • Neglect of self-care
  • And a loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities

Recognizing these signs early on is crucial, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional support and prioritizing mental well-being to ensure long-term success in both personal and professional realms.



Entrepreneurs, facing high expectations and unique challenges, have an elevated risk of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Even with the rigors of the career, there are steps they can take to protect their well-being. Despite the issues entrepreneurs face, their optimism can be a powerful asset. Addressing mental health openly and seeking support are two of the best ways for entrepreneurs to manage their health.

By prioritizing their mental health, and being aware of warning signs, entrepreneurs can build successful businesses while maintaining their mental condition.



Small Business Administration 

Freeman study

Psychology Today


This article was originally published in Certainty News: Article Link

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