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Mental Illness Costs Economy More Than Physical Ailments

September 15 2010 - Mental illness is associated with more lost working days than any other chronic condition and costs the Canadian economy C$51 billion annually in lost productivity according to research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

In the first study of its kind, researchers analyzed data relating to short-term disability leave taken by 33 913 full-time employees in Ontario to calculate the actual cost of mental health leave. They found that it is disproportionate, on average costing double that incurred by a physical illness. A single individual on short-term disability leave for mental health reasons costs their employer an average of nearly C$18 000.

Dr. Carolyn Dewa, head of the work and well-being research and evaluation program said:

"In an average year, a firm with 1000 employees might expect about 145 disability cases. Of this, only a fraction are on disability due to mental illness, yet it costs employers the most."

The report suggests that workplace interventions can play a significant role in maintaining a healthy workforce and reducing costs. Implementing a continuum of care and support offers an effective preventative measure. Programs emphasising work-life balance, stress management, and access to physical fitness can improve employee health and productivity.

Carolyn Dewa commented:

"We know that mental health triggers in the workplace can lead to disability - things like stress, casual and part-time work, and uncertain economic conditions can really take a toll on workers - especially if there is a pre-existing mental health condition. And while it is important to support workers that are on disability leave, it is crucial that businesses make mental health and wellness a priority to prevent disability in the first place."

For help with mental health and behavioral problems, visit

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