The Business Case for Investing in Mental Health

Employers should provide comprehensive mental health prevention and treatment programs because:

  • Adults spend most of their waking hours at work.
  • Mental health disorders and stress are common among the U.S. workforce.
  • Many people have depression as well as other expensive chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
  • The cost of doing nothing is higher than investing in evidence-based prevention and treatment.
  • Several evidence-based and cost-effective employer strategies are available.
  • Effective treatments can lower total medical costs, increase productivity, (e.g. reduce presenteeism and absenteeism) and decrease disability costs.

Icon representing employment

Mental health disorders in the workplace

An estimated 157 million U.S. adults are employed,1 and the average American worker spends more time working (over eight hours daily) than on any other activity apart from sleeping.2 With roughly one in five American adults reporting a mental disorder each year,3 the workplace is an important setting to address mental health and employers are important community stakeholders to promote mental health. Table 3 shows the estimated 12-month prevalence for mental disorders by clinical diagnosis.

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders in the U.S. adult population, and rates are highest among women and among people ages 30 to 44. Substance disorders are the next most common; rates are highest among men and people aged 18 to 29. Impulse control disorders are the third-most common disorders with rates highest among men ages 18 to 29. Finally, mood disorders, which includes major depressive disorder (MDD,) are most common among women and people between the ages of 18 and 29.

According to a 2017 national survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), the workplace was reported as the third-leading cause of stress (61 percent), after money (62 percent) and the future of the nation (63 percent).4

SURVEY: Leading causes of

Workplace 61%
The third leading cause of stress is workplace stress

Money 62%
The second leading cause of stress is money

Future of the nation 63%
The first leading cause of stress is the future of the nation

For more information on this topic please view the PDF of the full report.


  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 opub/ted/2016/employment-population-ratio-59-point-7-percent-unemploymentrate-4-point-7-percent-in-may.htm
  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. National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Mental Illness Statistics. Retrieved from
  4. American Psychological Association. (2017). Stress in America: The State of Our Nation. Retrieved from