Preventable job stress costs $730m a year

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