Employee well-being at 12-year low: Mental health top concern

*Attached video: High school secures some students’ phones to improve mental health

(WJW) – Americans’ overall well-being is at a 12-year low, and mental health is one of the top concerns. Post-pandemic optimism was suddenly tempered by a combination of rising costs, the global impact of the Ukraine conflict and rising gun violence. This confluence of factors has fueled fears of a recession and reduced consumer spending.

The Guardian reports that the price of commodities has increased by 7% since last year, making essential purchases like food, gas and school lunches a huge financial burden on Americans.

Additionally, employee well-being has fallen to its lowest level in 12 years, highlighting the negative impact of the post-pandemic environment on mental and emotional well-being.

Financial pressure does not exist in a silo and is not something that individuals forget about at the end of the workday. When Americans worry about finances at night, it’s easy to see how these worries directly contribute to declining mental and physical health, says Andrew McMahon, CEO and president of the Guardian.

Why are stress levels increasing in America?

Americans face many stressors, leading to a significant decline in overall well-being. Here are some of the major factors contributing to this increase in stress:

  • Paycheck to paycheck: 40% of Americans struggle to afford basic necessities, leaving them vulnerable to financial shocks.
  • Financial insecurity: Only 30% feel confident managing their finances, and less than half trust their health insurance.
  • Generational divide: Younger generations are particularly burdened, with only 23% of Gen Z reporting good financial health compared to 36% of Baby Boomers.
  • Return to the office concerns: Returning to work increases commuting costs, the burden of child care and the loss of pandemic-era flexibility, further exacerbating anxiety.
  • Caregivers hit hard: Caregivers suffered double the job losses and fewer hours in the past year as non-caregivers, increasing their financial stress.
  • Mental health crisis: 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness, and only 19% of Gen Z report good emotional health.

This widespread financial stress is hitting the wallet and impacting physical and mental well-being. The report highlights a vicious cycle where economic worries lead to poor health, resulting in increased costs and even premature death.

Poor health habits are taking a toll on Americans, increasing mental health concerns

The physical health of Americans has declined significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting both their physical and mental health.

Gym closures, increased alcohol consumption, and reliance on takeout and delivery food have been cited as major contributors to this decline. This decline in physical health is further compounded by its close relationship with mental health.

The study found a surprising correlation: 50% of workers reporting poor emotional health also overestimated their physical health, compared to only 5% of workers with high emotional health. It highlights the interconnectedness of physical and mental well-being.

Furthermore, the study highlights the dangerous relationship between oral health and mental health. About 29% of workers reported their oral health as poor, which had a significant impact on their mental health.

Of those, 45% say they don’t smile often, 41% lack self-confidence, 38% have low self-esteem, and 21% experience depression. This not only affects mental health and overall quality of life, but can also impact work performance and career, as 12% of employees also say they avoid speaking in meetings because they are self-conscious. .

Employers are not doing enough to address the declining well-being of workers

Employers are not paying enough attention to the deteriorating health of their employees, especially mental and physical health.

Employees seeking mental health support:

  • 50% of employees say access to behavioral or mental health services would be highly valuable to them and their families.
  • Only 39% report that their organization provides adequate mental health support.
  • This lack of support is especially worrisome given the projected decline in Americans’ mental health: 6 in 10 college students have a mental health diagnosis, which suggests that future generations will need even more support.
  • Employers lose approximately $48 billion annually from lost productivity due to mental health issues, highlighting the economic need for employers to prioritize mental wellness.

Employers recognize the importance of mental health:

  • Despite the lack of support, 57% of employers say it is extremely or critically important to address the mental health of their employees.
  • This acknowledgment stems from the increasing number of employee absences due to mental health issues, with mental health-related disability claims increasing by more than 40% over the past five years.

Underutilization of Physical Wellness Programme:

  • While 48% of employers claim to offer physical wellness programs such as health risk assessments and stress management, less than half offer any.
  • Even among employers who offer these programs, there is a lack of communication about them.
  • Only 30% of employees with physical health benefits use them.
  • This underutilization suggests that employers should do more to promote these programs and encourage participation.

Transfer cost burden on employees:

  • While employers offer more benefits than ever before, they increasingly pass the cost onto employees.
  • This change puts pressure on workers economically, resulting in declining life and STD insurance ownership rates.
  • Less than half (45%) of workers believe their employer offers affordable benefits, down from 60% in 2016.

Employers can help reverse workers’ declining well-being

Proactive employers can implement a variety of strategies to reverse this trend and develop a healthy, happy workforce.

Work-life balance: a key component

An important focus for employers is improving work-life balance. Studies show a strong connection between flexible work schedules and better mental health. Nearly half of employees with high emotional health enjoy flexible work arrangements, while only 36% of employees with fair or poor emotional health enjoy it.

This suggests that flexible work options, such as choosing a start time or working remotely, can make a significant contribution to employee well-being. Notably, nearly half of all employees surveyed expressed a desire for flexible work arrangements.

Clear Communication: Unveiling Hidden Benefits

Many employees are unaware of the full range of benefits offered by their employers, leading to underutilization of valuable resources. To address this, employers should proactively deliver benefits to employees through a variety of channels such as emails, newsletters, intranets and social media platforms.

Clearly explaining available benefits, including mental health resources, physical wellness programs and financial aid options, can encourage greater participation and improve employee well-being.

Supporting mental health: a shared responsibility

Mental health is a cornerstone of overall well-being, and employers should support their employees in this important area. Discussing mental health openly in the workplace can help reduce stigma and encourage individuals to seek help.

Additionally, offering mental health coverage in health insurance plans and providing access to confidential counseling services through employee assistance programs can provide important support to employees experiencing mental health challenges.

Physical Wellness: A Holistic Approach

Employers can prioritize physical wellness by offering comprehensive wellness programs. These programs should focus on health risk assessment, nutrition planning, stress management and fitness options.

Promoting healthy habits through campaigns, incentives and healthy food choices encourages employee participation. Creating a supportive environment with ergonomic workstations and stress-reducing activities further promotes physical well-being.

Addressing affordability concerns: a shared burden

Employers can deal with affordability concerns by negotiating lower mental and physical health coverage costs with insurance providers. Offering flexible benefits lets employees customize plans based on their needs and budget.

Additionally, financial wellness programs with educational resources, counseling and debt management tools help employees manage finances, reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

By implementing these strategies, employers can create a work environment that prioritizes the well-being of their employees. This will lead to a happier and healthier workforce, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and improve retention rates. This is a win-win situation for both employees and employers.

The article was published on Mrs. Outlaw Studio and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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Image Source : fox8.com

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