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Half of Employee Disabilities Are Related to Mental Health

person at an office late at night looking upset, stressed or depressed

Half of employee disabilities are related to mental health, new data reveals, a finding that demonstrates the prevalence of mental health conditions in the workplace as well as the importance of benefits and support to help.

According to recent data by Mercer and Global Disability Inclusion, a Saint Augustine, Fla.-based HR consulting firm specializing in disability employment and inclusion, people with disabilities make up approximately 7% of the workforce, and 51% of those with disabilities identified a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, as their primary disability.

Mental health conditions are far and away the most common employee disabilities, according to the report, followed by cognitive/learning, such as dyslexia or autism (16%); neurological, including multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy (11%); physical/mobility (9%); vision (7%); and hearing (7%).

Data was gathered from more than 5 million employees.

The report also found that just 1% of employees reported having a visible disability—one that could be easily identified by an outside observer—while the remaining 6% that have a disability reported having an invisible disability.

The research is the latest to indicate how widespread mental health conditions are in the workplace and serves as evidence that employers would benefit from offering a wealth of support and benefits, including employee assistance programs, app-based support, and individual coaching.

Peter Rutigliano, partner and behavioral health practice leader at MercerWELL, said that Mercer's research shows that when compared to nondisabled co-workers, “employees with disabilities still consistently show lower levels of engagement, [are] less likely to feel they were treated fairly at work, and [have] less of a connection to their organizations.”

That accounts for real business risks, Rutigliano said, because it “often translates to these employees reporting they were less proud and less likely to recommend or wish to stay at their current employer.”

We rounded up additional stories from SHRM Online about the state of mental health in the workplace.

Depression Cases Surge Among Women, Younger Employees

Depression is no longer one of the top mental health issues in the workplace. However, the condition is surging among women and young workers, according to new analysis, with 38% of depression cases in the past two years being found in workers ages 20-29, while 60% of cases were found in women across all age groups.

That’s according to mental health services provider ComPsych, which analyzed a sampling of more than 80,000 depression cases from its 2022 and 2023 U.S. books of business.

Depression is now the fifth most common presenting issue in the American workforce, while anxiety has skyrocketed to the No. 1 issue nationally, according to ComPsych.

(SHRM Online)

Are Organizations All Talk and No Walk When It Comes to Mental Health Benefits?

Despite increased awareness, progressive policies such as mental health days, and access to counseling services, the stigma associated with experiencing mental health issues remains. Toxic workplaces can prevent employees from speaking up about their struggles or seeking help.

There also appears to be a gap between the mental health resources companies offer and the level of comfort employees feel in using these benefits. Employees often face obstacles preventing them from using the resources available to them, such as feelings of uncertainty, difficulty getting time off, and an overall lack of awareness of what’s offered.

But there are several actions organizations can take to help turn things around, experts said.

(SHRM Online)

The Workplace Often Hurts Employee Mental Health

Nearly 1 in 3 employees said their job frequently causes them stress, according to new research from SHRM.

The data found that 30% of the 1,405 surveyed employees said their job often makes them feel stressed, 26% often feel “overwhelmed” by their job, and 22% often feel disengaged from their job.

“Negative emotions are exceptionally more salient than positive emotions and entirely more difficult for employees to let go of,” said Daroon Jalil, a senior researcher at SHRM who led the mental health research initiative. “When employees are experiencing these negative emotions, and experiencing them often, which is the real concern, it can lead to long-term negative consequences for the employee and the organization.”

The research also found that more than 1 in 3 employees (35%) said their job has a negative effect on their mental health, although nearly as many (34%) said their job has a positive effect on their mental health.

(SHRM Online)

Mental Health-Related Absences Rose 33% in 2023

ComPsych also recently reported that mental health-related leaves of absence are surging in the workplace, up 33% in 2023 over 2022.

Employee leaves of absence for mental health issues are up a whopping 300% from 2017 to 2023. A leave of absence, ComPsych said, can range from a few days to weeks.

Female employees and younger workers, in particular, are driving the surge. In 2023, 69% of mental health-related leaves of absence were taken by women. Of these, 33% were taken by Millennial women, followed by Generation X women, who accounted for 30% of mental health-related leaves.

(SHRM Online)


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