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Unum data reveals increase in employees seeking mental health support

  • More employees than ever are using Unum’s support for mental health conditions
  • Biggest increase in referrals are male employees under the age of 30
  • Increasing proportion of employees are being helped back to work using Unum’s return to work support
  • More than 7,000 people accessed Unum’s range of rehabilitation services in 2018

12 July 2019 Unum has reported that more people used its return to work support in 2018 for mental health issues than any other condition. Unum’s rehabilitation team provide support to ill or injured employees, helping them recover and safely return to work. Two fifths (39%) of all cases were related to mental health issues including stress and anxiety.

Unum also paid over £42 million to Group Income Protection claimants suffering mental health conditions in 2018.

However, Unum has also found an increasing number of these employees – 74% in 2018 rising from 70% in 2017 – have been able to return to work after receiving support from Unum’s dedicated team.

The government suggests the cumulative economic cost of sickness leave due to mental health conditions could be as high as £99 billion a year1, and with as many as one in seven (15%) people at work having symptoms of an existing mental health condition2, supporting mental wellbeing of the workforce should be a priority issue for employers3.

Unum found that men made up 57% of all cases using its return to work support for mental health – with the biggest rise among men aged under 30.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that over two thirds of men said they had felt so stressed at some point over the past year, that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, and a third had experienced suicidal thoughts4.

Dr Syed Zakir Abbas, Chief Medical Officer at Unum, says “Decreasing stigma around mental health problems and better understanding of the benefits of early support could be contributing to more employees using our services – particularly younger men – which is a positive development.

“Having access to early intervention resources for employees suffering mental ill-health can be key to supporting recovery. We developed our Mental Health Pathway last year to better support employers in maintaining mental health in the workplace and to provide access to specific intervention when an employee needs help.”


Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum, says “We believe employers have an important role to play in building healthy and inclusive work environments, where those with mental health concerns are fully supported. The emphasis Unum has placed on early intervention and identifying mental health issues in the workplace quickly is paying dividends, and our bespoke Mental Health Pathway is key to delivering this.”


In 2018 a total of 7,241 people used Unum’s rehabilitation services. This range of services is available to employers and employees with Group Income Protection and includes triage, treatment, vocational rehabilitation and return to work support, as well as training and advice for employers and employees.

Unum’s rehabilitation team provided return to work support to 1,670 ill or injured people – with 94% agreeing an outcome with their employer and 75% successfully returning to work – a figure that continues to rise year on year.


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1 Thriving at Work: The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, 31/10/2016, pg. 5

2 Thriving at Work: The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, 10/2017, pg.15

3 Thriving at Work: The Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, 10/2017, pg.15

4 The Mental Health Foundation: Only one in four men feel able to talk to friends and family when feeling stressed. Webpage