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Mental Health Disorders in the Labor Force: Looking at the Statistics

Mental Health Disorders in the Labor ForceToday, mental health disorders in the labor force are still stigmatized and unrecognized among a large population in the labor force. The labor force is the number of people who are employed plus the unemployed who are looking for work. The labor pool does not include the jobless who aren’t looking for work. In 2017, there were 153 million people in the labor force. It was the fourth largest labor force in the world, after China, India, and the European Union. Over half, or 53.1 percent, were men and 46.9 percent were women. Although there are strict laws and regulations for both employees and employers in order to enforce a safe workplace and fair wages; mental illness in the workplace is still stigmatized and unrecognized among a large population in the labor force.

How mental health is tied to employment

Unemployment is a well-recognized risk factor for mental health problems while returning to, or getting work is protective. A negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.

Mental health statistics in the workplace

  • About 18 percent of the U.S. adult population (44.7 million, or nearly 1 in 5) has a mental illness in any given year, according to 2016 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is not limited to blue-collar jobs or white-collar jobs. Depression and anxiety cross every industry and occupation, every socioeconomic status, every race, and ethnicity.
  • A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2003 found that depression costs U.S. employers about $31 billion a year in lost productivity, and that’s not counting costs associated with long- or short-term disability.
  • A study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, estimated the annual cost of depression in the U.S. workplace to be $51.5 billion.
  • 228 studies, conducted by researchers from Stanford University and the Harvard Business School, found that common workplace stressors increase individuals’ risk of self-rated poor health, self-rated mental illnesses, physician-reported illnesses, and even mortality.
  • A 2014 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggested that depression is associated with an increased risk of injury among workers.
  • Studies published in the March 2015, March 2016 and October 2017 issues of the journal found links between occupational injury and psychosocial hazards in the workplace, such as job insecurity, work-family imbalance, and a hostile work environment.
  • A study showed that while personal problems were the most common stressor contributing to poor mental health, 28 percent, or about one in four Americans, named their places of work as a source of anxiety.
  • In a survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), nearly 50 percent of respondents diagnosed with an anxiety disorder said it interfered with their relationships with coworkers, whether it caused them to avoid social situations or stay quiet in meetings.
  • Researchers found that only one in four employees disclosed their anxiety disorder to their employer. Most of the reasons could be traced back to the stigma around mental disorders: 38 percent said they were worried their bosses would think it was an excuse to get out of work, while 34 percent said they thought it would negatively influence promotion opportunities.
  • Individuals with ADHD are less likely to graduate from high school or college and also make 20 to 40 percent less money than coworkers without the disorder, even when controlling for academic achievements.
  • Employees with depression reported the equivalent of 27 missed workdays per year. Of these days, 18 were the result of lower productivity, and nine were sick or personal days.
  • A2006 report found that only 29 percent of employers say their company offers work-life balance, and the number of employees who agree is even lower, just one in five. Furthermore, the same report found that 52 percent of workers say their company does not do enough to promote employee health.
  • According to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, 80 percent of employees treated for mental health problems report improvements in their job satisfaction and productivity. Meaning it is even more essential than ever to focus on the mental health disorders in the labor force.

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