Key Insights

Icon representing a person suffering

  • Mental health disorders are very common and rising. This causes human suffering and depletes the economic vitality of communities and nations.

Icon representing a person improving mental health

  • Employers have a unique opportunity to improve the mental health of the 157 million working U.S. adults1 who spend more time working than on any other activity apart from sleeping.2

Icon representing effective treatment

  • Clinically effective treatments for most mental health disorders exist in primary care, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which many employers subsidize with medical benefits.

Icon representing training leaders and managers

  • Training leaders and managers to reduce the stigma associated with mental health is a promising organizational approach to help create a psychologically healthy workplace. Overall, few studies have evaluated organizational-level programs to improve employee mental health outcomes and more research is urgently needed in this area.

Icon representing mental health interventions

  • Overall, many types of mental health interventions delivered in the workplace are effective at improving mental health outcomes, although the size of the effect is small to medium. Stress management programs for individuals are especially effective at reducing stress and improving overall mental health.

Icon representing digital mental health apps

  • The growing number of digital interventions offered by third party vendors and insurance carriers to employees are promising ways to tailor programs for different populations based on their risk for mental health disorders.

Icon representing support of mental health

  • Employees expect their employers to support mental health as strongly as physical health and offer policies, programs, and an environment that is mental health-friendly.

Employers have a compelling interest for promoting positive mental health in the workplace, because adults spend most of their waking hours at work.3

Icon representing hours at workAdults spend most of their waking hours at work.

Poor mental health not only exacts a high toll on workforce health and well-being, it also negatively impacts productivity. The costs of depression and other mental health disorders are often underestimated because the indirect costs such as work absenteeism and poor performance at work (presenteeism) are costlier than the direct costs associated with medical care and prescription drugs4 (see Table 4 on page 28 of the full PDF report.). Because depression often occurs with other expensive chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, the economic burden on employers and the health care system are amplified (see Comorbid conditions on page 25 of the full PDF report.).

Costs are often underestimated

Various icons representing mental health

and include both direct and indirect expenses.

Investing in mental health treatment in general has been shown to be cost-effective. Many evidence-based treatments can save $2 to $4 for every dollar invested in prevention and early intervention (see Table 5. Cost of mental health disorders and cost-effectiveness of treatments).5, 6, 7 Interventions offered in the workplace have generally been targeted at reducing symptoms in individuals rather than modifying the work conditions that are risk factors for poor mental health such as job strain or unsupportive relationships between supervisors and employees.

Cost-effective investments can improve outcomes.

Many evidence-based treatments offer valuable returns on investment.

Every $1 invested in prevention can yield $2 - $4 in saved costs and better functioning


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). Employment–population ratio, 59.7 percent; unemployment rate, 4.7 percent in May. TED: The Economics Daily. Retrieved from
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). Table A-1.Time spent in detailed primary activities and percent of the civilian population engaging in each activity, averages per day by sex, 2017 annual averages. Retrieved from
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). Table A-1.Time spent in detailed primary activities and percent of the civilian population engaging in each activity, averages per day by sex, 2017 annual averages. Retrieved from
  4. Trautmann S., Rehm J., & H.U.., W. (2016). The economic costs of mental disorders: Do our societies react appropriately to the burden of mental disorders? EMBO Reports. doi: 10.15252/embr.201642951. Retrieved from
  5. Richardson J.S., Mark T.L., & R., M. (2014). The Return on Investment of Postdischarge Follow-Up Calls for Suicidal Ideation or Deliberate Self-Harm. Psychiatry Online. doi: 10.1176/ Retrieved from
  6. Chisholm D., Sweeny K., Sheehan P., Rasmussen B., Smit F., Cuijpers P., & S., S. (2016). Scalingup treatment of depression and anxiety: a global return on investment analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry. doi: Retrieved from
  7. Aos, S., Mayfield, J., Miller, M., & Yen, W. (2006). Evidence-Based Treatment of Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Disorders: Potential Benefits, Costs, and Fiscal Impacts for Washington State. Retrieved from