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Workplace Wellness

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Health conditions such as ADHD, addiction, depression, anxiety disorder, and sleep problems can indeed exact a staggering toll on the business budget.

In the U.S., where depression affects nearly one in 10 people, the estimated cost of this disability in missed work days, medical expenses, and premature death is $43 billion per year, reports the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

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Combine that with stress-related problems, and the price tag for corporations can go up to $80 billion, says executive consultant John Weaver.

Despite all these issues, many businesses slash their mental health benefits.

Companies "see their health premiums rise, and they get upset about that, and try to figure out ways to cut that," says Weaver. "An easy place to cut is the mental health benefits, because no one is going to complain, and say 'I need those,' because they're afraid of what's going to happen."

Indeed, the stigma attached to mental health conditions can prevent illness-related concerns from being fully addressed in the workplace.

Complicating matters, there are plenty of issues that can affect productivity, and it's not unusual for individuals to experience many of them at the same time.

"Real people often have more than one problem," says Weaver, noting how common it is for employees to be simultaneously depressed and anxious, or to have an addiction problem and ADHD.

However, Weaver reminds companies and employees that the most expensive way to deal with the matter is to rely solely on treating the issues after they become a problem.

Going to a mental health professional or accessing EAP resources are very effective ways of dealing the concern, he says, but such resources are expensive because they involve highly trained people who work on a one-on-one basis.

To help stem the cost of various health conditions, Weaver recommends that companies institute early interventions such as wellness programs, depression/anxiety awareness days, mental health screenings, and drug tests.

"If companies do effective intervention, education, screenings, and things like that, for every dollar they spend, they're going to save somewhere between $2.50 and $5 in treatment costs per person," says Weaver. Not only that, he says productivity tends to go up as a result.

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