costs workplace wellness

Study: Managing Mental Health Can Also Help Manage Costs

Mental wellness is an important part of a well-run workplace wellness, as we have reported. In addition to the personal impact, the associated presenteeism and absenteeism can translate into real costs.

We’ve started noting a new report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It is titled “Mental Health in the Workplace: A Call to Action Proceedings from the Mental Health in the Workplace: Public Health Summit.”

The article “summarizes the discussions that took place at the Summit and the resulting recommendations for specific actions to be taken to advance mental health in the workplace at the individual, organizational, and policy levels.”

Today we focus on an important component of the study: The Cost Burden of Mental Illness to Employers.

The report highlights the fact that much needs to be done: “Given that about 63% of Americans participate in the labor force, the workplace represents an often neglected setting for focused prevention efforts. By addressing mental health at the workplace, psychological disorders can be better identified and addressed, and negative sequelae of mental illness can be mitigated. Offering such services as employee assistance programs (EAPs), childcare and eldercare support services, and financial counseling are important benefits available to some, but not all, employees. Few can argue that more can be done to promote health and well-being at work.”

The study also notes the potential cost impacts: “Approximately one-third of the mental health cost burden is related to productivity losses including unemployment, disability and lower work performance.”

And then there’s the connection with physical health: “Poor mental health can lead to the development of physical health conditions and poor physical health can lead to the development of adverse mental health outcomes”

For well-run workplace wellness programs that also focus on chronic disease management, the report notes a potential connection with mental wellness: ” Psychological problems are commonly comorbid conditions associated with costly physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and respiratory disorders.”

The results?

  • “Data from large scale insurance claims analyses reveal that costs for treating patients with comorbid mental health and substance use disorders can be two to three times as high as those for patients without the comorbid conditions.”
  • “For example, there is a high prevalence of depression for patients with asthma (45%) and diabetes (27%). Depressed persons are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease or stroke and more than four times as likely to die within six months from a heart attack.”
  • “In their meta-analysis, Luppino et al. found a strong linkage between depression and obesity, where those with depression had a 58% greater risk of developing obesity that non-depressed individuals, and people with obesity had a 55% increased risk of being depressed than non-obese individuals.”

The bottom line: “When people suffer from mental illnesses, other dimensions of health are similarly affected, which, in turn, increase health care spending and diminish individuals’ ability to gain or regain meaningful employment or perform at their optimal level while at work.”