The Asia Mental Health Index Report is a joint project by Aon and TELUS Health, exploring how employees in Asia are feeling and the status of their mental health.
The study finds that the mental health of Asia’s working population is under strain, and that employees in this region have a higher mental health risk profile than those in other locations – and these factors are taking a toll on productivity.
The results of this study are clear:
Mental health issues are negatively impacting workplaces
Current interventions are not adequately mitigating mental health risk
Doing nothing will significantly increase the financial cost to organisations
Globally, the cost of workforce mental health problems is high and trending upward, so employers that do not take steps to mitigate these risks will likely face:
Higher healthcare costs.
Increasing costs and frequency of insurance claims.
Rising employee turnover.
Declining productivity due to absences and presenteeism.
With more than one-third of employees in Asia finding it more difficult to concentrate on their work compared to last year, nearly half feeling mentally or physically exhausted at the end of the workday, and more than half feeling more stressed over the past 12 months, leaders need to consider the impact of mental health issues on productivity as well as implications for individuals. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year around the world to depression and anxiety alone, at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
Training can help managers identify signs of distress among team members and understand and address factors that contribute to poor mental health, which can range from anxiety, sustained stress, cost-of-living pressure and financial problems to depression, excessive workload, a toxic work culture, poor job fit and health, relationship or parenting challenges – among other causes.
It is important that employers have tools, resources, benefits and policies in place to help individuals manage stress and reduce ‘stress crossover’, where one person’s experience of stress impacts the level of stress felt by those around them. Even if they cannot offer financial incentives, employers can help individuals address the root causes of financial difficulty through education programs.
Stigma is a primary barrier preventing employees from seeking help for mental health issues, with more than half of the surveyed employees believing their career prospects would be limited if they had a mental health condition and their employer was aware of it. In addition, around half say they would experience negative ‘self-stigma’ from having a mental health issue, highlighting the potential impact of poor mental health on self-esteem.
By fostering a psychologically safe culture and encouraging open and honest dialogue, employers have an opportunity to reduce mental health stigma and its negative impacts.
Other helpful approaches may include:
Storytelling to convey that everyone experiences psychological distress to varying degrees; there is nothing inherently wrong with having mental health issues and symptoms usually improve with the right support.
Appointing wellbeing or mental health ambassadors as employee contact points.
Encouraging leaders to share their own personal mental health experiences.
Explaining the importance of inclusive language in mental health communication.
Encouraging everyday conversations about mental health among all employees.
Organisations can play an important role in helping employees access timely, professional support. As well as frequently promoting wellbeing and other resources through internal communication channels, employers can consider offering psychiatry, psychology and general counselling cover within employee medical benefit plans alongside other types of mental health support. With 43% of survey participants saying cost is the biggest barrier to accessing mental health support, it is important to ensure programs eliminate cost concerns while offering choice and flexibility to suit diverse needs.
Download our report to read all the findings and location-specific insights.