Mental health issues cost the UK economy £99bn

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 13:37

Mental health issues cost the UK economy £99bn Image

Thriving at Work, the title of a new review of mental health in the workplace, suggests that 300,000 people with long-term mental health issues lose their jobs each year.

And the report includes the alarming finding that mental health issues cost the economy up to £99bn every year, with employers shouldering roughly £42bn of this cost.

A barrier to work

The report also found that the number of people forced to stop work because of mental health problems is 50% higher than for physical health problems. Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind and co-author of the report commented, "we think the reasons for that are a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services. Sometimes in organisations people feel themselves excluded because of their mental health issues and sometimes people don't spot that somebody is struggling."

The cost to companies

Mental health issues may be inevitable, but the report suggests that how companies respond to these issues determines their impact. The authors believe that, with action, a significant improvement in outcomes could be achieved over the next ten years.

A different approach to mental health at work

The report suggests a new approach to mental health, one that accepts that all of us are on a spectrum of mental health, and that the state of our mental health is likely to fluctuate, particularly during difficult or stressful experiences.

Rather than trying to avoid mental health problems, the report advocates a more accepting approach that involves greater awareness and understanding of mental health, as well as workplaces that are designed to support and sustain good mental health. And when people are struggling, employers should be ready to help employees manage their illness, just as they would if the individual was suffering with a physical ailment.

The authors explain four components of their vision for the UK workforce:

  • Employees in all types of employment will have "good work", which contributes positively to their mental health, our society and our economy.
  • Every one of us will have the knowledge, tools and confidence to understand and look after our own mental health and the mental health of those around us
  • All organisations, whatever their size, will be:
    • equipped with the awareness and tools to address and prevent mental ill-health caused or worsened by work;
    • equipped to support individuals with a mental health condition to thrive
    • aware of how to get access to timely help to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill health;
    • ready to dramatically reduce the proportion of people with a long term mental health condition who leave employment each year and ensure that, all who can, benefit from the positive impacts of good work.

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