Preventable job stress costs $730m a year
Excessive pressure at work is costing Australia’s economy $730 million a year due to job-stress related depression, a University of Melbourne and VicHealth report has revealed (www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/jobstrain).
Thereport, Estimating the Economic Benefits of Eliminating Job Strain as a Risk Factor for Depression, was funded by VicHealth and led by Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne, from the McCaughey Centre, in collaboration with Dr Kristy Sanderson, from the Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania.
Associate Professor LaMontagne has previously shown that “job strain”, where workers have little control over their job while under high pressure to perform, accounts for 17 per cent of prevalent depression in working women and 13 per cent in working men.
The $730 million per year job strain price tag includes lost productive time, employee replacement costs, government-subsidised mental health services and medications for depression. It equates to $11.8 billion over the average working lifetime, with the biggest loss accruing to employers.
The report also revealed an $85 million cost of absences for depressed workers who do not have access to paid sick leave, which also represents a significant cost to employees.
However Associate Professor LaMontagne said the figures underestimated the true costs of depression in the workplace, as other factors that increase the risk of depression such as bullying, sexual harassment and job insecurity were not included in the study. In addition, the study did not include the costs of mental health-related WorkCover claims. Workers’ compensation costs totalled about $209 million nationally per year for all ‘mental stress’ claims, including chronic stress as well as other categories such as occupational violence and bullying. “Claims thus represent only a fraction of potentially avertable costs, yet they are currently the main drivers of policy,” he said. “What we need is a stronger focus on prevention in order to best address this problem.
“These figures represent a significant burden on the Australian economy that is preventable by improving job quality.
“There are legal and ethical reasons for employers to address poor working conditions and to support staff, but these new findings add an economic incentive as well. Employers would be the major beneficiaries of reducing job strain over the long term, because the greatest costs fall on employers due to lost productivity and employee replacement.”
Caption: Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne