Did you know? I’m much more likely to get dementia or Alzheimer’s disease due to my blindness. Mental health treatment is vital to reduce lost working days and unemployment. Reading Chapter 4 of the UK Chief Medical officer’s report “on the State of the Public’s Health” was really depressing!  In addition to the prospects of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, people with blindness or deafness are more likely to have other long-term health conditions, anxiety or stress and have less confidence in managing our health.  We are more likely to come from deprived areas and are less likely to be in employment – all the advances in adaptive technology still may not make work possible or convince employers that we can do an equally good job. Although the report can’t explain many of the causal links between working conditions, sickness absence and unemployment, I have tried to pull some of the factors in to a sequence   Mental health conditions offer prime examples: Poor mental health linked to some types of work.   Poor quality jobs (precarious, low income etc), long working hours, shift working and sleep deprivation can result in anxiety, stress, depression and other health consequences.  Such jobs aren’t necessarily low paid as stress and anxiety are most prevalent in the health and social work sectors so there may be read-across to the hospitality and transport industries, emergency services, military and more. Mental health conditions most prevalent work-related illnesses.    38% in 2011. Mental health conditions most common cause of long-term absences.  Increasing. Mental health and other long -term absences most costly. While only 5% of absences are long-term (4+weeks), they account for about  50% (700m) of all working days lost each year due to sickness and cost the economy about £7.5M xx check original that this isn’t bn. Mental health absences often turn in to long-term unemployment.    Each year, about 300K people leave work for health-related benefits and mental health conditions account for about 45% of all claimants. Some possible solutions: Employers need to appreciate that their duty of care extends to employees’ mental health and that such is at higher risk in some types of jobs/sectors. Workers need to be alert to the mental health risks in some jobs/sectors. Employers can reduce sickness absences with low/neutral cost good management. Meanwhile, there are other causes of sickness absence– some work-related and some not – and a small percentage will be long-term with similar loss of working days and cost to the economy.  Although they may need more structured help to return to work, this can still be cost-effective.  But, where this is not provided, they are likely to become unemployed   and form 55% of all those claiming health-related benefits.   And their prospects are bleak: Being “off sick” can make you sicker.  Lower income, living standards and self-esteem often result from unemployment.  But there is also impact on health:  more risk of increased use of tobacco and alcohol, poorer diet, less physical activity, more mental health conditions, long- term illness, suicide and premature death. Being “off sick” long-term can make you even sicker.     The risk of mental health conditions and other consequences are more substantial for people who have not worked for a long-time.  Their health prospects will improve if they work again but not to the level of people who have worked continuously. Some possible solutions: Employers need to recognise that lack of cost effective measures to reduce sickness absence and unemployment has wider impact on the economy: cost of benefits, health and employment support interventions, loss of tax and NI revenue. Workers need to be alert to the increased health risks of leaving work due to sickness. Jobcentres and other employment support providers need to tailor their help for the large numbers of people leaving work with mental health conditions plus those who acquire such following unemployment, especially long-term. Adequate and early treatment for mental health conditions is needed. Bouquet of the week. To Peter the gardener and his son for re-laying a new lawn in the front garden.  Having not touched it much beyond weed-and-feed for the last 30 years before which I doubt it got much TLC either, I now have a sward of drought and shade resistant grass that Peter will treat like a pet! Yours Lushly, Penny Melville-Brown penny@laylands.co.uk
Click here to view previous blogs by Penny