NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mental Illnesses Cost Companies Plenty

June 13, 2001

Employees' mental illnesses, primarily depression, impose steadily rising costs on companies, experts report. The costs can be direct, in the form of ever-rising medical bills, or indirect, in the form of lost productivity and related illnesses such as alcoholism.

  • Experts say depression alone costs U.S. businesses about $70 billion a year in medical expenses, lost productivity and other costs.
  • In a typical office of 20 people, chances are that four will suffer from a mental illness this year.
  • Antidepressant sales in the U.S. have risen more than 800 percent to $10.2 billion, according to IMS Health.
  • Depression appears to strike women at about twice the rate it hits men -- although the higher rate may be because women seek help more readily than men.

Those familiar with the problem say that most employers are unaware of its dimensions. That's due, in part, to the fact that most people with mental or emotional problems tend to hide their conditions.

Source: Elyse Tanouye, "Mental Illness: A Rising Workplace Cost," Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2001.

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