Work is making you mentally ill

Reports says work is affecting the mental health of thousands every year. How are businesses dealing with anxiety, depression and stress?

What’s the biggest challenge that British business will face in the next decade? The competitive threat of India and China? Recession? Another series of The Apprentice starring Alan Sugar? Each of my colleagues in the Times business team has come up with a different answer, but, intriguingly, no one cited the problem high-lighted by a spattering of recent reports: mental ill-health.

The definition of what counts as mental illness varies in the studies, with the terms stress, anxiety and depression used almost interchangeably. Estimates of the size of the problem also vary, with reports claiming that “nearly three employees in ten have a mental health problem in any year”, that “depression is estimated to affect as many as one in five people at some point during their lives”, and that “one in four people in the UK will experience some kind of mental ill-health in the course of one year”. But what is clear is that mental illness is a major headache for employers, and will become an even bigger one.

Workplace “stress” is now the second-biggest occupational health problem in the UK after musculoskeletal conditions and, according to a World Health Organisation report, “depression” is the fourth most significant cause of suffering and disability after heart disease, cancer and traffic accidents. By 2020 it will rank second, behind heart disease. It’s no surprise that calculations vary as to what this might cost British business in lost productivity. Different reports have put the annual cost at £3 billion, £9 billion and a massive £32 billion. But the extent of the problem is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that in 2006, BT admitted that it had about 500 people off sick with psychiatric problems every single day.

Source - Times

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