U.K.: Stress, Depression Linked to Lost Work

Stress, depression and anxiety are the second largest cause of lost workdays in the United Kingdom, according to a new report released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), a U.K. organization that focuses on worker management and development.

The conclusions found in the report, “New Directions in Managing Employee Absence,” were drawn from an analysis of the records of 30,000 employees working in 40 different companies and organizations. The analysis shows that people suffering from depressions took an average of 30 days off work per year, while those suffering from stress and anxiety took an average of 21 days off work.

Other findings include:

  • Public-sector employees take more time off work than private-sector employees as a result of mental health issues (24 days vs. 20 days).
  • Women take more time off than men (22 days vs. 20 days).
  • The older the employees are, the more time off they take due to mental health issues. For instance, employees 55 and older average 36 days off work, while employees up to 25 years old average 17 days off.

The report concludes that only workers suffering from musculoskeletal disorders outnumber workers who suffer from depression and stress.

“This research shows how important it is for managers and HR practitioners to be aware of the signs of mental ill health so that they can take action early and provide support before the individual’s condition deteriorates to the point they go off on long-term sick leave, said Ben Willmott, CIPD employee relations adviser.

Company Health Programs Encouraged

Willmott emphasized that the U.K. government should play a larger role in finding ways to help employers provide their employees access to cost-effective occupational health services. He said that tax incentives, for instance, would encourage employers to introduce health programs in their companies.

In June 2006, “The Depression Report” from the London School of Economics concluded that there were 1 million people on disability as a result of mental illness but that only one in four sufferers of depression or chronic anxiety were receiving treatment.

CIPD said that the report identifies a new approach to absence management, as it helps identify whether an individual takes more or less time off than might normally be expected for a person with a particular condition considering their age, occupation and gender. Such information, according to CIPD, can provide accurate guidance for employers on when an employee should normally be expected to return to work and at what point occupational health interventions should be made to help the individual make a successful recovery.

Ingolv Urnes, chief executive officer for Active Health Partners, the U.K.’s provider of absence management, said it might be helpful for employers to compile “accurate sickness absence data,” as it would leave employers better-equipped to tackle mental health issues.

“ ... [It would] enable managers to intervene in a reasonable and timely way so that sickness absence can be managed effectively and individuals can be supported in their rehabilitation and return-to-work,” Urnes said. “This will help improve productivity, reduce costs and litigation risks.”

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