Depression ‘may overtake stress’ as biggest mental health issue at work

A 40 per cent rise in calls about depression to a major employee assistance programme (EAP) suggests the condition is the fastest growing mental health concern for employers.

An analysis of more than 22,250 calls to Canada Life Group’s EAP since 2010 revealed the huge increase in depression-related calls in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Calls about the condition were up by a massive 63 per cent from 2013.

Depression now accounts for 31 per cent of the service’s calls about mental-ill-health.

A fifth of calls made to the EAP in the first three months of this year were about anxiety, depression and stress, which also represented a 5 per cent increase year on year, the provider said.
The data showed that more than half of mental-health related conversations, 57 per cent, were about work-related illnesses.

Stress still accounts for the largest proportion of EAP calls, 43 per cent, and the data showed incidences reported to the service had increased by 9 per cent over 12 months.

But while plenty of attention is given to stress in the workplace, employers’ focus on depression lags behind, Canada Life said.

The provider said that the rate of increase in calls about depression suggests the condition may overtake stress as UK employees’ biggest mental health issue.

And the only mental health concern that has seen a reduction in calls was anxiety, with the number of calls relating to it dropping by 11 per cent since 2014.

In addition, 2014 EAP figures revealed that that 58 per cent of those who were not at work when they first requested counselling support had returned to work by the end of the counselling.

Before counselling, 51 per cent of users with mental health concerns believed they were coping poorly with their jobs. After receiving counselling, this fell to just 5 per cent.

Feedback from the Capita counselling team, who work with the EAP, suggested the increased fear of redundancy has and is causing greater depression and anxiety among employees.  This shows the impact the workplace can have on employee health and well-being, which can also affect overall productivity.

“It is actually very positive news that only one in five of our calls to our EAP is mental health related, showing that our message, that our EAP is a work/life support service rather than a ‘you have to be broken’ counselling service, is getting through,”  said Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance.

“However, when people do call about mental health issues the results need to be understood. The negative impact of stress on staff has been well documented, some would say overly so, but the analysis of calls to our EAP suggests that depression is nearly as prevalent among UK employees.

“More importantly, the number of calls made about depression has shot up by 40 per cent in the past year alone, and with fear of redundancy cited as a significant cause. It is clear that employers need to turn their attention to wider mental health issues, focussing not only on stress but also the effects of depression and anxiety.”

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