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Mental health and employment facts  

Facts and figures about mental health and employment.
  • one in six women and one in nine men are likely to require treatment in a psychiatric unit during their lifetime, yet only a minority of these will suffer long-term or permanent disability
  • more than one million people claim incapacity benefit for mental health problems.
  • three in ten employees will experience mental health problems during a single year and virtually anyone is susceptible to psychiatric illness 
  • 80 million workdays are estimated as being lost each year to stress, depression and anxiety
  • 10 per cent estimated proportion of GDP lost due to work related stress
  • it costs an estimated £9bn per year in salaries to employers not addressing mental health problems in the workplace.
  • 90 per cent of people with mental health problems want to work.
  • only 20 per cent of people with severe mental health problems are employed, compared with 65 per cent of people with physical health problems and 75 per cent for the whole adult population. Even for people with more common types of mental illness, such as depression, only about half are competitively employed.
  • 40 per cent of people with mental health problems say that they were denied a job because of their history of psychiatric treatment and 60 per cent say they have been put off applying for a job as they expect to be dealt with unfairly.
  • 38 per cent of employers say they would not employ someone with a mental illness
  • 45 per cent of employers think that none of their staff would be suffering from mental health problems
  • eight out of ten company directors say that their company has no formal policy to deal with stress and mental ill health and only 14 per cent of those with a policy thought it was effective
  • one in three employers think people with mental illness are less reliable than other employees
  • 80 per cent of employers agree that more support is required to improve the way businesses deal with mental health in the workplace.

Mental Health Foundation research found that 47 per cent of people who had experienced mental distress said that they had experienced discrimination in the workplace, and 37 per cent had experienced discrimination when seeking employment.

A review published by the Department of Work and Pensions in September 2006 found that being in work is good for your mental health – while people who are unemployed can have higher suicide rates.

Sources: Shift, Shaw trust, Employers Forum on Disability, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Mind, Rethink, Mental Health Foundation, Institute of Employment Studies, CBI, Guardian Society 14/11/07

The effects of programmes of education for managers in workplace stress


Research carried out in Japan, where 60% of workers report high levels of anxiety and stress, provides evidence of the beneficial results obtained from programmes providing training for line managers and supervisors.

Randomised control trials show that even single session educational programmes for supervisors significantly improve knowledge and job performance and reduce psychological distress when compared to no programme of action at all.  (i)

This supports research carried out in the United States in the 1980s that showed stress management in hospitals decreased the frequency of malpractice claims – comparable to preventable medical errors in the UK – by 71% (ii)

A similar programme has been shown to decrease nurse and doctor burn out and improve satisfaction with work. (iii)

Sources: (i)  Nishiuchi K; Tsutsumi A; Takao S; Mineyama S; Kawzkami. Effects of an education programme for stress reduction on supervisor knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour in the workplace: a randomised control trial. Journal of Occupational Health 2007: 49: 190-8

(ii) Jones JW; Barge BN; Steffy BD; Fay WM; Kunz LK; Wuebker JL. Stress in medical malpractice: organisational risk assessment and intervention. J Appl Psychol 1988: 73: 727-35

(iii)  Krasner MS; Epstein RM; Beckman H; Suchman AL; Chapman B; Mooney CJ et al. Association of a medical programme in mindful communication with burnout, empathy and attitudes among primary care physicians. JAMA 2009: 302: 1284-93

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Julian Topping

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