Stress costs Europe over €600 billion a year
May 15, 2012
“Depression is the biggest mental health challenge among working-age people and often leads to considerable loneliness and isolation at work.” – Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive of Depression Alliance (UK-based charity)
A new survey published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work reveals that 51% of Europe’s workers find stress ’commonplace’ in their workplace. Moreover, about one third of the labour force are affected by work-related depression and burn out.
The heavy burden of stress
These numbers are startling. And they come with a heavy price tag.
First, there’s the obvious cost of missed work days. According to EU-OSHA calculations, this alone adds up to a bill of 94 billion Euros a year.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. How much does work efficiency and productivity suffer when people suffer? That number is much more difficult to crunch out, but European researchers believe it to be in the region of 600 billion Euros a year – and this is a very conservative estimation. The report explains the number-crunching:
“In 2002, the European Commission (2002) calculated the costs of work-related stress in the EU-15 at €20 billion a year. This figure was based on an EU-OSHA (1999) survey that found that the total cost to the EU-15 countries of work-related illness was between €185 and 289 billion a year.
Using estimates derived from other researchers indicating that 10 % of work-related illness is stress related, this percentage was applied to a conservative estimate of the total cost of work-related illness (€200 billion) to obtain the figure of €20 billion for the cost of work-related stress for this group of countries.
In the recent EU-funded project carried out by Matrix (2013), the cost to Europe of work-related depression was estimated to be €617 billion annually. The total was made up of costs to employers resulting from absenteeism and presenteeism (€272 billion), loss of productivity (€242 billion), health care costs of €63 billion and social welfare costs in the form of disability benefit payments (€39 billion).”
“A positive working environment is not only important for enabling employees to work longer, it is also important to ensure that when workers do retire, they are still in good health.“ – László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Where to look for solutions?
The most progressive companies are well aware of the problem. They have established proactive routines to manage employees suffering from stress and depression, and these all start with a willingness to listen to employees.
Research shows clearly that companies and organizations where management has included its workers in developing or changing the structure, revising systems and procedures, usually have very little stress.
But what if there’s no stress solutions committees at your workplace? What if you feel the waves breaking over your head each day, yet no one at the management level seems to care…?
Oprah Winfrey teaches all her staff to meditate