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Depression Cases Surge Among Women, Younger Employees

young female looking stressed and upset

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, as 38% of depression cases in the past two years occured in workers ages 20-29, while 60% of cases occured 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 U.S. 2022 and 2023 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.

“On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see that depression has decreased in prevalence across the American workforce,” said Richard Chaifetz, founder, CEO, and chairman of ComPsych. “However, our data shows that’s not the case for everyone.”

[SHRM Resource Hub Page: Mental Health]

The data is the latest in a set of studies that examine how mental health issues are afflicting employees and serve as a call to action for employers. Industry experts, including Chaifetz, contend that organizations would be well served to take a hard look at their mental health benefits and resources—making sure they are robust and well utilized by employees. And women and younger employees should be an important target for extra resources.

“As business leaders look to support their workers, I’d urge them to invest strategically in the groups who are struggling the most with this issue, emphasizing resources for younger age groups and in particular, women,” Chaifetz said.

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

The Workplace Often Hurts Employee Mental Health

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

The data, released during Mental Health Awareness Month in May, shows that 30% of 1,405 surveyed employees say 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)

Anxiety Is Now the Top Mental Health Issue in the Workplace

ComPsych’s data on depression comes shortly after it released data on anxiety in the workplace.

Its recent analysis of more than 300,000 U.S. cases found that nearly a quarter of people (24%) who reached out to ComPsych for mental health assistance in 2023 did so to get help with anxiety. That makes anxiety the No. 1 presenting issue reported by U.S. workers, topping depression, stress, relationship issues, family issues, addiction, and grief, ComPsych said.

Anxiety has risen dramatically over the years, ComPsych said. In 2017, for instance, anxiety didn’t rank in the top five presenting issues for Americans.

(SHRM Online)

Mental Health-Related Absences Up 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 vary 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)

Tips to Improve Mental Health at Work

Although employers are making progress in mental health efforts, with more employers and employees seeking out mental health benefits, there is still much work to be done, said Colleen Marshall, chief clinical officer at Two Chairs, a mental health clinic in San Francisco.

“To have truly integrated mental health in organizations, there would be specific efforts to ensure employee wellness and mental health is a priority,” she said. “This looks different for different people and different industries. It usually includes making sure the job itself is reasonable and manageable and that employees are able to manage their mental health the same way they can manage their physical health.”

Evaluating mental health offerings, offering onsite or easy-to-access mental health professionals, giving employees paid time off to attend therapy appointments, and organizing mindfulness groups in the workplace are some measures that can help lower barriers to mental health care, Marshall said.

She added that leadership should communicate frequently and consistently that employee wellness and mental health are important to the organization.

(SHRM Online)


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