I'm OK, Are YOU?

July 30, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new report indicates that a quarter of the American workforce experiences at least one mental or substance abuse disorder each year - and it has a multi-billion dollar price tag for employers.

The report, which drew from National Comorbidity Survey and the National Mortality Followback Survey data, found companies pay more than $17 billion a year in “unproductive” wages to workers with mental disorders.

Production Impact

However, according to the report in HealthScoutNews, less than a third of that total goes to pay workers who miss workdays because of their substance abuse.  The bulk, some $12 billion, is lost because productivity declines due to the illness.

“The rates are extremely high,” says Robin Hertz, study author and a senior director of population studies at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Group. “As a nation, we have to be more attentive to these types of problems. There is a mythology out there that if you are at work you are healthy. That is not really true.”

The most common mental disorders among workers aged 18 to 54 are:

  • alcohol abuse or dependence – 9%
  • major depression – 8%
  • social phobia – 7%

Self Assessment

And the costs aren’t just borne by others.  The study found that men and women with mental disorders earn on average 22% less than people without mental disorders.

Not that the sources of the problem are always evident.  Roughly two-thirds of the 28 million workers who have a mental disorder have never had that condition officially diagnosed – and just 14% of workers with mental disorders have been treated in the prior year, according to the report.

For a list of the symptoms of common mental illnesses, visit the National Institute of Mental Health at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/index.cfm