Employees With Fair Or Poor Mental Health Miss 12 Days Of Work Per Year Costing U.S. Economy $47.6 Billion Annually

The mental health crisis in the United States is a significant concern and a substantial economic burden. 

According to a recent online Gallup survey, 19% of U.S. workers rate their mental health as "fair" or "poor," leading to increased unplanned absences. These workers are estimated to have nearly 12 days of unplanned absences per year, resulting in an annual cost of $47.6 billion in lost productivity for the U.S. economy. 

Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup National Health and Wellbeing Index, commented to Yahoo! Finance on the situation, stating, "It's a real wake-up call for U.S. employers that the job has a net negative impact on mental health" and acknowledged that the total costs exceeded expectations.

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The survey also revealed that 33% of U.S. workers believe their job has a "somewhat negative" impact on their mental health, with 7% reporting an "extremely negative" impact. The overall assessment of mental health varied among respondents, with 13% indicating excellent, 34% very good and 34% good mental health. On average, people who rated their mental health as fair or poor missed approximately 11.8 workdays per year. The absences can be attributed to factors such as burnout, therapy appointments during work hours or the need for mental health days to recharge.

The challenges in the U.S. mental healthcare system are longstanding. The separation of research and training between mental healthcare and physical healthcare has resulted in limited insurance coverage, a lack of available treatment options and a shortage of behavioral health expertise. Darcy Gruttadaro, chief innovation officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), highlighted the financial barriers to accessing mental healthcare, noting that many psychiatrists and therapists do not accept insurance, making it expensive for people to seek treatment. The shortage of mental health professionals and long waiting times for appointments further hinder access to care.

A number of firms have setout to solve this crisis and other healthcare-related issues in recent times. Most notably, retail giant Amazon.com, Inc. has continued to expand its generic pharmacy business. And Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs Co. has been gaining traction in reducing prescription drug prices. Other firms like Bioverge, a venture capital fund aimed toward retail investors, continues to invest in healthcare based technologies.

A recent survey conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals a concerning consensus among the American population regarding the country's state of mental health. An overwhelming majority of 9 out of 10 adults expressed their belief that the United States is facing a mental health crisis. 

When asked to assess the severity of various mental health concerns, the opioid epidemic emerged as a top priority, with over two-thirds of respondents considering it a crisis rather than a mere problem. More than half of the participants identified mental health issues among children and teenagers and severe mental illness in adults as crises demanding immediate attention.

Within the workplace, accessing mental health support services is not always easy. The Gallup survey indicated that 33% of workers are uncertain whether their employer provides easily accessible mental health support services, while 24% confirmed that such services are not available. 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that a significant percentage of adults considered suicide or experienced mental health-related symptoms during the pandemic. The shortage of mental health providers and the difficulty in navigating the mental healthcare system have been longstanding challenges, and the pandemic has only worsened the situation.

Efforts have been made to address the mental health crisis in the U.S. For example, insurance coverage for mental health providers has increased, and health plans have raised payments to recruit more professionals. But there is still a pressing need to bridge the gap between mental healthcare and physical healthcare, increase the availability of mental health support services in the workplace and ensure that primary care providers are equipped to address common mental health conditions.

Overall, the U.S. mental health crisis requires urgent attention. It not only impacts the well-being of individuals but also has substantial economic consequences. Addressing the systemic issues in mental healthcare and promoting mental health support are crucial steps toward creating a healthier and more productive society.

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