risk factors workplace wellness

Mental Wellness Risk Factors Become Key Workplace Focus

As we’ve noted, a workplace wellness focus on mental health can help address issues like productivity and cost, beyond the individual benefits such attention can bring. So how can programs consider risk factors?

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

The report notes that in terms of costs, “approximately one-third of the mental health cost burden is related to productivity losses including unemployment, disability and lower work performance.”

In terms of productivity:

  • “Research shows that there are more workers absent from work because of stress and anxiety than because of physical illness or injury.”
  • “Further, more days of work loss and work impairment are caused by mental illness than other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis.”
  • “Employees with depression report their productivity at 70% of their peak performance, and approximately 32 incremental workdays are lost to presenteeism for individuals with major depressive disorders.”

For a well-run workplace wellness program, it becomes important to help individuals address the risk factors associated with mental health.

The report notes:

“Employees scoring at ‘high risk’ for depression also had the highest levels of medical expenditures during the three years following their initial health risk assessments (HRAs), even after controlling for nine other risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood glucose.”

“Other studies have demonstrated a clear relationship between self-reported psychosocial risk factors, such as depression, stress, and anxiety, and future detrimental effects on worker productivity measured in terms of absenteeism, presenteeism, workers’ compensation claims, and short term disability.”

“There is also evidence that physical and psychosocial risk factors are associated; meaning that people with mental health problems are more likely to have poor lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, low rates of preventive screenings, and poor safety habits.”

These realities also can affect business performance. The study notes “that while physical health symptoms primarily affect absence, mental health problems tended to affect performance, and unsupportive work cultures exacerbated the effects of both. Harmful work cultures were characterized by unsafe working conditions, low respect and trust, lack of variety in tasks performed, high workloads and lack of control in decision making. Those working in unsupportive work cultures experienced higher absence rates and lower job performance.”

Tomorrow we address how employers can help move from “illness to health.”