Study finds 'sharp increase' in workplace mental health issues

A new Aon Employee Benefits' report suggests the rise could be due to greater openness and more proactive employer support through initiatives and training.

Image of stressed man with head in his hands
The Benefits and Trends Survey 2018 from Aon Employee Benefits finds the number of employers reporting employee stress and mental health-related illnesses rose from 55% last year to 68% in 2018.The health and benefits company believes greater employer investment in proactive initiatives, including mental health first-aid training, which teaches managers and colleagues how to spot the common signs and symptoms of mental health issues, how to support and guide a person to seek professional help and gain resilience coaching, accounts for some of the increase.

Engaging with employees to improve health

As well as the rise in reported mental health issues, the report finds employer investment in initiatives to tackle mental health and stress increased to 42% from 36% in the previous year.The number of employers providing employee health apps has more than doubled from 21% to 48% over the past 12 months.This echoes a further finding that 84% of the over 200 employers surveyed for the study take on responsibility for encouraging positive health behaviours among their workforces and are taking a preventative approach in the process.Aon Employee Benefits notes that the number of "fremium" apps coming from major insurance firms, such as private medical insurance (PMI), plus an increased employer appreciation of technology, are helping companies to engage their people in improving health behaviours.The use of virtual GP services has also increased significantly, with 27% of employers using them, up from 16% last year.
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Managing the costs of wellbeing

Despite the availability of free apps, more cost-effective technology and greater awareness, the report also suggests that for many organisations the challenge of managing the cost of health benefits remains a key priority.For 43% of responding companies, their response to managing cost pressures was to introduce limits on medical plans.Benefits redesign also continues to be a strong strategic theme, according to the study, with 45% of employers considering design changes to flexible benefits schemes.

Focus on employee wellbeing continues to rise

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Mark Witte, head of healthcare and risk consulting of Aon Employee Benefits, said: “If there was one defining theme in 2017, it was the growth of and increased focus on corporate wellbeing programmes across several key areas.“We now see 84% of employers saying that they consider themselves responsible for influencing their employees’ health behaviours.“There has also been a 25% increase in the proportion of organisations with designated funding for their health and wellbeing programme, with over half of respondents now having a specific budget in place or intending to within the next three years.“This is a contributing factor to the increase in the proportion of employers offering programmes to help lifestyle behaviours, including weight loss, smoking cessation or physical activity.”
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