Wednesday 2 November 2016 6:00 am

Workers with mental health issues contribute £226bn to UK GDP

There's still a way to go in destigmatising mental health issues, so a new report has quantified the economic contribution those who do have mental health issues make to the UK, while pointing out it could be even higher.

UK workers with mental health issues contributed £226bn to UK GDP in 2015. That contribution made up 12 per cent of UK GDP, which is nine times more than the costs associated with mental health issues.

Tying in with National Stress Awareness Day, the Mental Health Foundation, Oxford Economics and Unum launched a report to show the economic contribution those with mental health issues make to the UK.

Read more: Let’s talk about mental health to end the stigma in the City

One in six of the UK workforce experienced mental health problems last year and the research aims to shift the narrative on workplace mental health onto the value of it as an asset.

It found that an estimated £25bn in foregone gross value added to the UK economy is missed out on because of the cost of mental health problems to individuals and to business (including the cost of absence and staff turnover, lost productivity and carers leaving the workforce).

And if just 10 per cent of the costs were mitigated, the UK economy could be £3.3bn larger than it otherwise would be in 2030.

Chris O'Sullivan of the Mental Health Foundation said:

It is critical that we move beyond assuming that a mental health problem is an individual issue. Mental health is an asset we all have, and that companies can and should nurture.

We need to build mental health into the professional development of managers not just in recognising distress and responding with compassion, but also in providing ongoing support and in recognising opportunities to promote mental health across the workforce.

(Source: Unum, Mental Health Foundation)

Of those who had been diagnosed with a mental health problem in the last five years, 49 per cent had taken mental health-related sickness absence. And only 10 per cent of line managers felt they had sufficient training to deal with mental health problems at work. 

Of the 2,000 people polled, only 25 per cent felt their firm's policies and procedures helped support employee mental health.

The report combined publicly available data with a workplace mental health survey of around 1,000 people self-defined as having mental health issues and another 1,000 of those who have line management responsibilities. 

Read more: Just 14 per cent of firms have mental health plans for staff

What can businesses do?

  • Designate specific positions, both at a board level and within senior management, to oversee the development and implementation of a mental health strategy
  • Support the critical role that line managers play and provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training that addresses mental health as a business asset