Employee mental health costs rise twice as fast as additional medical costs

Anxiety can be expensive for U.S. employers.

The amount of money companies spend on the mental health of their employees has been rising at a rapid clip — with annual costs increasing twice as fast as all additional medical expenses in recent years, according to data via Aetna Behavioral Health.

as well as people with mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder or substance abuse cost employers more money.

They make six times as many emergency room visits as the overall population, according to benefits consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. They submit two to four times as many medical claims. People suffering via depression submit an average of $14,967 per year in claims, compared with $5,929 a year for the total population, Willis Towers Watson said.

Some employers are creating improving the costs as well as treatment of mental illness a top priority — on par with combating cancer, diabetes as well as additional chronic ailments, according to a fresh survey of 687 companies conducted by Willis Towers Watson. Of employers surveyed, 57 percent said they plan to focus on mental as well as behavioral health to a great or “very great extent” over the next three years.

“We all have a point at which stress can creep into negatively impacting our overall health as well as wellness,” said Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health. “Employers are increasingly recognizing … the importance of taking care of health, well-being as well as mental health, as well as also the role stress, isolation, loneliness as well as some of these additional factors can play in overall mental health as well as well-being.”

Over the past 5 years, employers’ behavioral health expenses have jumped by more than 10 percent annually, compared with an annual increase of 5 percent for additional medical costs, according to Dr. Mark Friedlander, chief medical officer for Aetna Behavioral Health.

The rise in mental health spending may not be a bad thing, Friedlander said. When employers help improve the mental health of their employees, they tend to be physically healthier too, healthcare professionals say.

“Overall, This specific can be not a bad news story,” Friedlander said. “As things expand on the behavioral health side, there may overall be benefits on the medical cost side.”

Substance abuse, prescription drugs as well as costly treatments like magnetic stimulation for treatment-resistant depression are some factors driving up costs, said Jeff Levin-Scherz, national co-leader of the Willis Tower Watson’s health management practice. Indirectly, mental health issues can take an “enormous toll” on employee productivity, he said.

Providing generous wellness benefits also helps to attract as well as retain employees, he said.

First, employers need to be able to identify who needs help. Some companies are eyeing chatbot services that will employees can text when they’re feeling depressed, anxious or stressed. One, called Tess, was built by clinical psychologists as well as uses artificial intelligence to coach users.

Another issue can be actually finding people help when they need This specific. Sometimes, This specific can take weeks to schedule an appointment. Telehealth, or virtual visits, are emerging as one possible solution.

“Mental health has always suffered via stigma as well as the very substantial problem of access, too,” Levin-Scherz said. “as well as what I see amongst my clients, who are mostly large employers, can be increasing concern about the issue as well as the increasing desire to offer something.”

Stress can weigh on anyone, leaving them discouraged as well as possibly cause them to burnout. Exhaustion as well as negative attitudes can lead to depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Stress can also cause people physical harm. Constantly worrying about work can lead to erratic eating habits as well as cut into exercise routines, which can lead to weight problems, high blood pressure as well as higher cholesterol levels, according to the APA.

Employers are taking note. Some are covering the cost of subscriptions to relaxation as well as meditation apps like Headspace as well as Calm. Some are offering Sleepio, an app that will scores users’ sleep habits as well as teaches them cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to improve their sleep. additional companies are trying to change their corporate culture to reduce workplace stress as well as improve employee resilience.

Last year, financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, introduced a program called “Be well, work well” focused on physical, emotional, mental as well as spiritual well being. People can enter their progress in a phone app as well as earn credits to redeem for gift cards.

About 0 percent of PwC’s 50,000 U.S. employees participated from the firm’s “Habit Challenge” where employees picked behaviors to work on. Before the program began, employees conducted an energy audit of themselves. As a whole, the firm has seen a 19 percent score increase since January.

Nancy Spangler, founder as well as CEO of consulting firm Spangler Associates, says these cultural adjustments are crucial. She also emphasizes the need to train managers to recognize signs someone needs help, including lower production, difficulty meeting deadlines, emotional outbursts as well as withdrawal. She says they also need to learn how to approach the situation instead of ignoring This specific.

“There has to be cultures of health as well as cultures of compassion that will allow people to be innovative as well as creative within climates of psychological safety. that will’s where well-being occurs,” Spangler said. “(Companies) just can’t slap a program on This specific, in order that will requires leadership as well as management, particularly middle management.”

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