Treatment for mental health problems improves employee productivity
Researchers from The University of Queensland in Australia analyzed data on mental health symptoms, treatment, and productivity in more than 60,000 employees. The study, which was published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that workers without symptoms of mental health problems -- as measured by low scores on a psychological distress scale -- were the most productive employees.
Michael F. Hilton, lead researcher for the report, said that while workers with mental health problems who were in treatment had the lowest productivity scores, their distress scores decreased, suggesting that treatment was successful in reducing mental health symptoms, and their productivity improved to near-normal levels. Therefore, he said, employees starting mental health treatment may see a decline in productivity at first. The study concluded these employees may need more time off to attend appointments or that their health professional may advise working shorter hours.
"However, once the mental health symptoms have remitted, productivity returns to near that of employees without a mental disorder," Hilton said.
Experts estimate that mental disorders cost employers billions of dollars annually due to decreased productivity. Previous studies have shown high rates of mental health problems in the working population but very low rates of mental health treatment. For most individuals with common mental disorders, Hilton said treatment reduces symptoms and improves quality of life.
The researchers concluded that addressing employee mental health increases productivity in the workplace with the potential for a positive return on investment for the employer. However, they noted that employers may have to wait before they see an increase in productivity.
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October 5, 2009
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