One-third of Canadian workers taking time off work for mental health issues

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One-third of Canadian workers taking time off work for mental health issues

Poor mental health is a big hindrance in the life of many workers.

Overall, about 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to poor mental health every week.

And 38 per cent have taken time off work in the last five years due to mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression and burnout, according to a report commissioned by the Future Skills Centre.

Of those respondents, nearly half were off for one month or more.

On average, workers in Canada are absent from work due to mental health for 12 days, finds the survey of more than 500 Canadians.

Annually, the Canadian economy loses $50 billion on absenteeism and disability, while employers lose $17 billion on the cost to business of lost productivity.

A mental health emergency is affecting Canadian organizations to the tune of $200 billion each year, according to a previous report. For younger workers, the impact is even greater as 40% of those between 18 to 24 are burned out and at a wellbeing “breaking point”.

What’s causing mental health troubles?

About 62 per cent of survey respondents identified finances as a key stressor affecting their mental health, reports Future Skills Centre.

Nearly half (48 per cent) say their earnings are inadequate for the increased cost of living, and nearly a third (30 per cent) are concerned their retirement savings are insufficient.

However, the workplace is also a huge contributing factor to workers’ mental health troubles. Fifty per cent of survey respondents indicate that work affected their mental health, with 35 per cent experiencing burnout.

Of the survey respondents who took time off work for mental health in the last five years, 80 per cent indicate that the demands of their job and work environment were primary causes.

“The role of employers in supporting the mental health and overall well-being of workers is therefore critical,” say authors Olga Morawczynski and Jessica Roberts in the report titled Improving Quality of Work in Canada: Prioritizing mental health with diverse and inclusive benefits. “However, interviews and research revealed that very few employers have invested in initiatives to assess and address the impact of the workplace on mental health.”

Benefits design and mental health

It seems employers’ benefits design is not at an optimal level, according to the Future Skills Centre’s report.

Although 58 per cent of survey respondents say improving mental health is a wellness goal, less than a quarter use care models that are covered by benefits such as counselling (21 per cent) and prescribed medications (25 per cent), but nearly half (46 per cent) engage in mindfulness therapies that are not covered.

“This indicates a major need for greater flexibility in mental health benefits and coverage for diverse types of care to better support workers to improve mental health,” say the authors in the report.

More comprehensive, flexible and inclusive benefit programs are needed, which would “make a real difference in the overall mental health of a large number of Canadians,” says Morawcynski in a report from the Toronto Star.

Employers could create well-being programs that emphasize mental health and focus on prevention. “To start, employers and benefit providers could increase limits for mental health care while expanding the range of practitioners and modalities covered under benefit plans,” it added.

Failing to address these issues, the report underscores, “will further compound the deterioration of workers’ overall well-being and result in even greater costs for employers and benefit providers.”

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