Media - Press Releases

Work important to 86% of employees with a mental health problem

10th October 2017

  • People diagnosed with a mental health problem within the last five years were more likely to regard their job as very important to their mental health1.
  • Sickness absence or leaving work altogether is a last resort for most individuals1.
  • For those with mental health conditions, returning to work following an absence or periods of being unwell was necessary and beneficial for their own wellbeing1.

World Mental Health Awareness Day is 10 October, and the theme this year is mental health in the workplace.

Research by The Mental Health Foundation, Oxford Economics and Unum shows that work is a key factor in supporting and protecting mental health – helping make the case that mental health should be viewed as asset1. It also shows the value that people with mental health conditions bring to businesses and the overall economy.

People want to work

The research found that many people with mental health problems want to be at work, and they value the role it plays in their lives1. A strong majority (86%) say that their job and being at work was important to protecting and maintaining their mental health1.

Respondents also noted that work has a positive influence on their recovery, wellbeing, self-esteem, social connectedness and identity1. The majority said that they enjoyed their work and that it was empowering for them because they are good at what they do1.

Even where participants identified that the stress they experienced at work was related to the impact of their mental health problem, they noted that work was still a necessary element of their lives, providing a routine as well as their source of income1.

Sickness absence or taking time away from work was considered a last resort for most individuals1. For those with mental health conditions, returning to work following an absence or periods of being unwell was necessary and beneficial for their own wellbeing1.

HR directors and line managers also agreed that keeping people healthy and in work had benefits for the individual in their process of recovery1. Unum’s annual return-to-work statement shows that more people get back to work with mental health conditions than any other condition after a long-term absence2.

Good for businesses

The report suggested that people with a lived experience of mental health bring a diversity of perspectives and resilience to the workforce, which could be beneficial to employers1.

The research also shows that people with lived experiences of mental health are more attuned to distress in others1 – which can benefit companies greatly if it can prevent a bigger crisis from occurring.

Contribution to the overall economy

Importantly, the research shows that people with mental health conditions contribute far more to the labour force than they cost it and bring a wide range of skills to the labour force 1.

A study by Oxford Economics, available in the Appendix of Unum’s Mental Health report, showed the value added to the overall British economy by people with mental health problems – and it’s significant. Their contribution made up 12.1% of UK GDP – nine times more than the cost of mental health problems to economic output1.

Commenting on this analysis, Peter O’Donnell, CEO at Unum, said:

“We’re thrilled to see mental health move up on the corporate agenda as we’ve known for a long time just how importance mental health is to overall wellbeing. Our claims data tells us that mental health problems have grown to be the second most important driver of long-term employee absence after cancer3 and employers play a key role in protecting the mental health of their staff. We challenge those who have not yet implemented mental health strategies to make this a top priority.”

Liz Walker, HR Director at Unum said:

“Recognising the important role work has on mental health should encourage employers to view the mental health of their workforce as an asset. Working can provide a sense of identity, build self-esteem and provide an opportunity for healthy social interactions. Employers benefit greatly from engaged employees and the diversity of perspectives that a lived mental health condition brings.”

Unum has a wealth of resources for business owners and HR professionals on mental health wellbeing, which is available at http://www.unum.co.uk/mental-health.

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries, please contact Kelly Spencer at kspencer2@unum.com.

Sources:

  1. Unum, Mental Health Foundation and Oxford Economics: Mental Health as a Workplace Asset (2016)
  2. Unum: Group Income Protection Annual Return-to-Work Statement (2017)
  3. Unum: Group Income Protection Annual Claims Statement (2017)

Methodology for Unum’s Mental Health as a Workplace Asset report

  • YouGov conducted an online survey of 1,000 people with lived experience of mental health problems in work and 1,000 people with line management responsibilities between 12th and 24th August 2016.
  • Oxford Economics conducted an economic cost analysis using publicly available data including Labour Force Data collected by the Office for National Statistics. To read the full Oxford Economics report, visit unum.co.uk/mental-health

About World Mental Health Day:

Mental health in the workplace is the theme of World Mental Health Day 2017. World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health.