By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
Organizations across the country are reporting a rise in mental health and substance abuse issues among workers. While employers are challenged with measuring the prevalence of mental health and substance abuse, they are aware of the impact these issues play on worker performance and health care costs and are responding by providing a range of preventive and treatment options.
A recent survey report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans examines the current state of mental health and substance abuse in the workplace and how employers are taking action.
The report found that 60 percent of U.S. and Canadian organizations are noticing an uptick in mental illness and substance abuse compared to two years ago. Forty percent of organizations report their participants are very or extremely stressed, and almost 40 percent say stress levels are higher now compared with two years ago.
"Employers are becoming increasingly mindful of the mental health and substance abuse challenges their workers might be dealing with, as evidenced by the fact that almost all of our responding organizations report offering benefits to help with these conditions," said Julie Stich, CEBS, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation. "Many organizations have analyzed claims data, introduced alternative pain management treatments and started using prescription drug monitoring programs. Employers recognize the severe impact of these conditions on both worker well-being and cost to their businesses—and are doing something about it."
The most prevalent mental health/substance abuse conditions that employers report in their workplace are depression, anxiety disorders and alcohol addiction. Other common conditions include sleep disorders, prescription and nonprescription drug addiction, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD/ADD).
The top ten mental health and substance abuse conditions covered by employers:
- Depression (84 percent)
- Alcohol addiction (82 percent)
- Anxiety disorders (78 percent)
- Prescription drug addiction (77 percent)
- Nonprescription drug addiction (72 percent)
- Bipolar disorder (72 percent)
- Eating disorders (62 percent)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (62 percent)
- ADD/ADHD (56 percent)
- Autism (50 percent)
“Moving forward, organizations should be sensitive to potential barriers to offering mental health and substance abuse benefits," said Stich. "Many workers fear that admitting a problem may negatively impact their job security, and some have concerns about confidentiality. Certain workers may not even know they have a problem or aren't ready to address it. It's important for employers to communicate the availability of benefits and other resources available to help. Through this communication and by providing coverage, employers are making the right moves in creating a psychologically safe workplace.”
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