2022

State of
Mental Health in
Cybersecurity

We surveyed 1,027 security professionals to put some hard up-to-date numbers behind their mental health.

An illustration of a brain chilling in the sky

A word from
Eoin Hinchy

CEO & Co-Founder, Tines

Security teams are not immune from mental health issues.

In my fifteen years of being a security practitioner, working on incident response and leading security teams, I saw firsthand how burnout impacted my team. The increased pressures of the past few years, remote work, the talent shortage, job duty frustrations, and other challenges are creating environments where mental health is wearing thin.

But what are team leaders doing to increase the conversation around mental health and provide resources and tools to their staff in order for them to do their best work? Are security team members managing their mental health so that they’re unencumbered by the frustrations of their job? Or are they burdened with their workplace’s rising stress?

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to better understand the current state of mental health and wellness amongst cybersecurity practitioners. We surveyed 1,027 members of security teams from both the United States and Europe to examine their daily struggles, how they rank their mental health, and if they’re approaching workplace situations and scenarios in healthy ways.

Security leaders want to see their teams succeed and thrive. Let these findings help you better understand the current state of your team’s mental health and wellness so you can make proactive improvements this Mental Health Awareness Month.

Key findings

Our respondents provided the following insights about the state of their mental health:

  1. 47% rank their mental health highly.

    26% say the state of their mental health is “excellent,” while 21% say it’s “very good.” The remainder rank their mental health as good (20%), fair (15%), or poor (17%).

  2. 27% say their mental health has declined over the past year.

    39% report that their mental health has improved over the past twelve months, and 34% say it has stayed the same. However, 27% report that their mental health has gotten worse over the past twelve months.

  3. 57% have workplaces that provide mental health support

    Nearly two-thirds (57%) of respondents say their workplace provides them with resources and support for their mental health and wellbeing. Yet only 54% say their workplace prioritizes mental health.

  4. Stress levels are already high — and rising.

    66% experience stress at work: 22% are very stressed, 23% are fairly stressed, and 21% are somewhat stressed. Additionally, 63% say their stress levels have risen over the past year.

  5. Mental health is affecting productivity, and work affects mental health.

    64% of respondents say that their mental health affects their ability to get their work done, and 64% say their work impacts their mental health.

  6. Therapy and medication for mental health is common.

    51% of respondents have been prescribed medication for their mental health, and of those, 58% are currently taking medication for their mental health. Additionally, 49% are currently seeing a therapist.

  7. Half are in good physical health.

    50% reported that they’re in excellent physical health (27%) or very good physical health (25%). 42% are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep or more per night.

A retro mobile phone

Methodology and
participant demographics

In order to provide greater context around these findings, here are more details on who we surveyed and the methodology used. Starting on April 21, 2022, we surveyed 1,027 members of security teams from both the United States and Europe. The survey was conducted online via Pollfish using organic sampling. Learn more about the Pollfish methodology here.

1,027members of security teams

Gender

Male 53%
Female 47%

Age

18–24 21%
25–34 33%
35–44 29%
45–54 10%
> 54 7%

Country

🇺🇸 United States 49%
Europe 51%

What best describes your role?

How many years have you worked in cybersecurity?

Now, with context around who our respondents were — security team members, typically at the senior level who have been in their workplaces for six to ten years — let's take a closer look at what we uncovered.

Part One

General
physical health

Glasses of water per day. Hours of sleep per night. Getting up from your desk to walk around. Eating healthy. Good physical health is a necessity not only for overall well-being, but better physical health can also improve mental health. To begin, respondents told us how they would rank their current physical health.

Half rank themselves as being in excellent or very good physical health

Respondents rate themselves as in pretty good physical health, with half (50.1%) saying they’re in excellent physical health (25.6%) or very good physical health (24.5%). The remainder said their health was good (17.3%), fair (14.8%), or poor (17.7%).

In looking at the breakdown between regions, 46.8% of European respondents say they’re either in excellent physical health (23%) or very good physical health (23.8%). 53.6% of US respondents say they’re either in excellent physical health (28.3%) or very good physical health (25.3%).

How would you rate your physical health?

42% are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep or more per night

Respondents are somewhat scattered on the amount of sleep they get per night. While the largest segment (17.5%) said they sleep seven hours each night, 11.5% are only getting four hours of sleep, while 13.5% are getting ten hours of sleep. Overall, 41.9% are getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, or more. The remaining 58.1% are getting seven hours or fewer per night.

Please estimate the average number of hours you sleep on a nightly basis:

Considering responses are self-ranked, and therefore may be skewed higher, we found that about half consider themselves in either excellent or very good physical health.

Additionally, 42% are getting the recommended daily eight hours of sleep or more per night. However, that means that half of respondents rank their physical health as good, fair, or poor, and 58% of respondents are sleeping seven hours or fewer per night. This, of course, can negatively impact work productivity and mental health.

Part Two

General
mental health

Understanding and managing mental health is just as important as managing physical health — especially in a high-stress industry like cybersecurity. Yet while organizations are placing more importance on addressing mental health, workers are still suffering from the impacts of high-stress environments and poor or non-existent ways of coping with those environments. In light of increasing concerns around mental health, how are respondents assessing their mental health, and how has it changed over the past year?

47% say their mental health is either excellent or very good

When it comes to rating their mental health, 47% ranked themselves in the higher tiers, saying their mental health is excellent (26.4%) or very good (20.6%). The remainder said their mental health was good (20.4%), fair (15.4%), or poor (17.3%).

In looking at sub-groups of respondents, European respondents rank their mental health lower than US respondents. 43.4% say their mental health is either excellent or very good, compared to 50.6% of US respondents saying it’s either excellent or very good.

Additionally, older respondents rank their mental health as better than younger respondents. Of respondents 35 and older, 50.9% say their mental health is either excellent or very good, compared to only 43.6% of respondents 34 or younger. 48.9% of senior-level employees rank their mental health as either excellent or very good, compared to 42.3% of entry-level employees.

Finally, of those who rate their mental health as “excellent,” the largest segment are senior-level employees, who generally rate their physical health as excellent and mostly get seven hours of sleep per night.

How would you rate your mental health?

27% say their mental health has gotten worse over the past year

Fortunately, for 39.1% of respondents, their mental health has improved over the past twelve months. For 34.2%, their mental health has stayed the same. However, 26.8% report that their mental health has gotten worse over the past year.

US respondents have also fared better, as 42.3% of US respondents say it’s improved, while only 35.9% of European respondents say it’s improved.

How has your mental health changed over the past 12 months?

Half (50.8%) of respondents say they have been prescribed medication by a doctor for mental health.

Half (50.8%) of respondents say they have been prescribed medication by a doctor for mental health.

Have you ever been prescribed medication by a doctor for mental health?

58% are currently taking medication for their mental health

Of those who have been prescribed medication, well over half (58.2%) of respondents are currently taking medication prescribed by a doctor for their mental health. Of those who ranked their mental health as “excellent” above, 59.3% are currently taking medication for their mental health, and of those who ranked their mental health as “poor” above, 51.6% are currently taking medication for their mental health.

Are you currently taking medication prescribed by a doctor for mental health?

49% are currently seeing a therapist

Nearly half (49.3%) of respondents are also currently seeing a therapist for their mental health. Of those who ranked their mental health as “excellent” above, 52% are currently seeing a therapist for their mental health, and of those who ranked their mental health as “poor” above, 53.9% are currently seeing a therapist for their mental health.

Are you currently seeing a therapist?

Summary

While about half of respondents ranked their physical health as either excellent or very good above, we found here that only 47% consider their mental health to be excellent or very good — meaning that 53% rank it as good, fair, or poor. We also found that younger and entry-level employees are not ranking their mental health as high as older or senior-level employees. Additionally, European respondents rank their mental health lower than US respondents.

However, many respondents are taking steps to address their mental health. 51% have been prescribed medication for their mental health, and 49% are currently seeing a therapist. What’s interesting to note is that medication and therapy aren’t just for those who reported poor mental health; many respondents who reported that they have excellent mental health are also taking medication and attending therapy — perhaps reasons why they rank their mental health state so high.

As we continue to look at mental health in workplace settings in our following section, security leaders need to consider that while 39% of respondents said their mental health has improved over the past year, 27% said that it had gotten worse.

Part Three

Mental health
at work

Given the amount of time spent at work, an individual’s daily duties, workplace culture, colleague relationships, office politics, and more can negatively impact mental health if they don’t have ways of dealing with the dynamics in a healthy way. Our respondents told us about how the stress and situations in their workplaces are affecting their mental health, and also how their mental health is impacting their productivity. Are they finding ways to handle the stress, or is the workplace overwhelming them?

66% have some significant level of stress at work

Stress levels at work can significantly impact an individual’s wellbeing, and it seems that our respondents are under a fair amount of stress with their daily work. 66% say they have some significant level of stress at work: 22.2% say they’re very stressed, 23% say they’re fairly stressed, and 20.8% say they’re somewhat stressed. 17.6% report that they’re not very stressed, and 16.3% report they’re not stressed at all.

Overall, US respondents say they’re more stressed at work than European respondents, with 68.6% of US respondents saying they have some significant level of stress at work, while 63.5% of European respondents say the same.

Additionally, 68.2% of respondents 35 or older report having some significant level of stress at work, while 64.2% of respondents 34 or younger report the same.

Finally, 67.5% of senior level respondents report having some significant level of stress at work, while 67.7% of entry level respondents say the same.

When it comes to your daily work, how stressed are you currently?

63% say their stress levels are rising

When it comes to stress, the levels are rising. For 37.3% of respondents, their stress has stayed the same. However, for 62.7%, stress levels have gotten worse.

Stress levels have gotten slightly worse for younger respondents as well. For those 34 and younger, 63.5% report that their stress levels have gotten worse, while of those 35 and older, 61.9% reported the same.

Stress levels have also gotten worse for entry level respondents, with 63.4% reporting that their stress levels have gotten worse, while 62.7% of senior level respondents say the same.

When it comes to work-related stress, how have your stress levels changed over the past 12 months?

64% say their mental health affects their productivity

For our respondents, mental health is having an impact on productivity, as over a quarter (23.9%) of respondents say that their mental health has “very often” affected their ability to get their work done. Another 21.3% said it “fairly often” impacts their work, and an additional 19.2% says it “sometimes” does. For 20.5%, their mental health “doesn’t very often” affect their productivity, and 15.2% say it never does.

For those who responded “very often,” 67% say their stress levels have increased, and 70.2% say they experience some significant level of stress in their daily work. For those who responded “never,” 64.1% also say their stress levels have increased, and 54.4% say they experience some significant level of stress in their daily work — meaning it might not be the stress level but the ability to manage stress.

During the past 12 months, how often has mental health affected your ability to get work done?

64% say their work affects their mental health

What about the reverse — is work impacting mental health? Nearly a quarter (22.4%) of respondents say that their work “very often” affects their mental health. Another 23.2% say work “fairly often” does, and an additional 18.6% said work “sometimes” affects their mental health. For 19.6%, work “doesn’t very often” affect their mental health, and 16.3% say it never does.

For those who responded “very often,” 64.8% say their stress levels have increased, and 77% say they experience some significant level of stress in their daily work. For those who responded “never,” 67.6% also say their stress levels have increased, and 57.6% say they experience some significant level of stress in their daily work — meaning it might not be the stress level but the ability to manage their mental health.

During the past 12 months, how often has your work affected your mental health?

Situations affecting
mental health

Knowing the connection between work impacting mental health and vice versa, respondents provided information about how they’re feeling and reacting to various situations at work that may impact their mental health. Here’s what they replied.

1. In the last month, how often have you been upset at work because of something that happened unexpectedly?

2. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important tasks or projects at work?

3. In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed at work?

4. In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle problems at work?

5. In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations at work?

6. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things at work?

7. In the last month, how often have you felt burned at work?

8. In the last month, how often have you been angered by things at work that were outside of your control?

9. In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties at work were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

Stress levels are not only rising, but they’re also pervasive. Two-thirds of respondents are feeling the pressure at work: 66% say they have some significant level of stress at work, 63% say their stress levels are rising.

Of those who report some level of stress at work, 64% also report that their mental health has affected their productivity, and 64% say their work has impacted their mental health — showing a correlation between stress levels at work and mental health.

But does high stress always lead to mental health concerns? Those who replied “never” for their mental health impacting their productivity and for their work impacting their mental health still experience high levels of stress and have had stress levels that have increased. This suggests that for some, the levels of stress at work do not negatively impact their mental health because they’ve found healthy and productive ways to manage it.

Having different levels of coping with or not coping with workplace issues is likely the reason for such varied responses to the different work situations respondents encounter. For example, 41% said they were often upset at work because of something that happened unexpectedly, while 38% said they weren’t. 43% said they often felt difficulties at work were piling up so high that they could not overcome them, while 36% didn’t. 46% said they have often felt nervous and stressed at work, while 35% said they haven’t.

It's unlikely that the reasons for these differences are because some are more “strong-willed” than others. The difference is likely how individuals are managing their mental health, as improved mental health can help individuals with stress, feeling overwhelmed, getting angry, or other reactions to work. As we saw above, there is a segment of our respondents who are experiencing rising stress at work, yet their mental health is not being impacted.

Part Four

Alcohol and
Drug Use

Managing workplace stress should be done through healthy approaches. But too often individuals turn to unhealthy ways to manage stress and poor mental health. What frequency, if any, are respondents using alcohol and non-prescription medication in their daily lives?

19% are consuming over three drinks daily

When it comes to alcohol use, 18.7% of our respondents are consuming more than three drinks daily, while 19.6% are consuming more than three drinks in a day once a week. 17.5% say they consume more than three drinks in a day once a month, 13.8% do so once a quarter, and 13.5% do so once per year. 16.9% say they never consume that much in a day.

How often do you have more than three alcoholic drinks in a day?

38% are taking non-prescription medication either daily or weekly

When it comes to taking non-prescription medication, 20.8% of respondents do so daily, while 17.2% do so weekly. 15.4% take non-prescription medication monthly, 16.2% take it quarterly, and 13.7% take it once per year. 16.7% never take non-prescription medication.

How often do you take medication not prescribed by a doctor?

Summary

We know that two of the unhealthy ways of dealing with stress, burnout, frustrations, and other mental health issues are by consuming alcohol or utilizing non-prescription medication (which could range from taking an Advil for a headache to heavy drug use). 19% of respondents are consuming three or more drinks per day — a worrying statistic considering the implications of this kind of level of alcohol use. Additionally, 38% are taking non-prescription medication either daily or weekly. Of those who reported having significant levels of stress at work, the number rises to 41% who are consuming three or more drinks per day either every day or once a week, and 42% who are taking non-prescription medication either daily or weekly.

Part Five

Employer
resources

Considering the impact of workplace duties and dynamics on mental health, and the importance of helping employees be healthy and safe, more workplaces are implementing mental health and wellness resources, often in the form of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), by providing subscriptions to mental health apps, or by running on-site programming. But are respondents receiving the resources they need in their workplace?

57% say their workplace provides mental health support

As we’ve seen in the previous sections, respondents’ daily work duties, situations, and stresses are impacting their mental health, and their mental health is impacting their work. For 56.6%, their workplace does provide mental health support and resources for their staff, while 43.4% say their workplace does not.

Additionally, respondents in the United States are more likely to have an employer provide mental health support (64.2%) than respondents in Europe (49.1%).

Does your employer provide mental health support?

54% say their workplace prioritizes mental health

Do workplaces care about and prioritize mental health in their operations? Only half (54.1%) say they do, while 45.9% say their workplace does not prioritize mental health.

Also, respondents in the United States are more likely to say their employer prioritizes mental health (58.3%) than respondents in Europe (50.1%).

Do you believe your employer is prioritizing your mental health?

The importance of being able to handle workplace stress, unexpected situations, burnout, and other factors seems to be key for managing mental health and creating a strong work environment.

As employers realize this as well, they’re beginning to provide more tools and resources to their staff in order to help them better approach situations like the ones outlined above. So far, 57% say their workplace provides mental health support to their employees. However, only 54% say their workplace prioritizes mental health. While it’s a number that’s likely improved over the past few years, there’s still progress to be made.

An illustration of flowers growing out of a human-head shaped pot

Prioritizing
mental health today

Cybersecurity professionals are experiencing increasing levels of stress, burnout, and frustration at work, and it’s impacting their mental health, according to our respondents. Only 47% rank their mental health as “excellent” or “very good,” and 27% say their mental health has declined over the past year — a massive flag for security leaders who want to ensure they’re caring for their team. Security leaders also need to know that two-thirds report experiencing stress at work, and say that their work impacts their mental health. While there are respondents who are taking steps to address their mental health through medication and therapy, is there more that can be done?

The good news is that more organizations are normalizing the conversation around mental health. They’re also recognizing that good mental health and associated practices can help individuals be better prepared to handle stress, uncertainty, and burnout — especially important considering that Harvard Business Review found that 68% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Z have left workplaces because of mental health reasons.

Prioritizing your team’s mental health is more critical now than ever. It not only involves reducing workplace stress, frustrations, and friction that can impact mental health, but also providing the resources and support needed to help your team understand and improve their mental health as well.