Good mental health in Denmark is associated with a reduction of USD $0.9-1.3bn per year in productivity losses to the economy, according to a new study published in the Mental Health and Prevention Journal.
It finds people with good mental health are less absent from work due to sickness compared to others. This translates into lower productivity losses to the economy.
The study was conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Copenhagen University, Warwick University, University of Barcelona, and The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.
Several international studies have examined the costs associated with poor mental health specifically, such as mental illness, depression or stress. But only a few studies have focused on the reduction in costs associated with good mental health, i.e., a high level of mental wellbeing.
This new study shows that there is a connection between good mental health and lower costs in the form of productivity loss. Productivity loss means the economic value to society of the work that people could have performed if they had not been absent due to sickness.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Ziggi Santini from the National Institute of Public Health, SDU said: "People with high levels of mental wellbeing, characterised for example by being optimistic and having energy to spare, have significantly fewer annual sick days than others. This has implications for societal costs."
The study is based on data from 1,959 employed Danes aged 16-64, who answered questions about their mental wellbeing in 2019. The answers were then linked to survey and register data pertaining to information on sickness absence from the workplace in 2020.
The participants were divided into three groups according to their level of mental health: poor, moderate, and good.
Twelve percent had poor mental health, 67 percent had moderate mental health, and 21 percent had good mental health.
Ziggi Santini added: "As compared to poor mental health, moderate mental health is associated with five to six fewer annual sick days, while good mental health is associated with six to nine fewer annual sick days."
In the study, adjustments were made for previous sick days over the course of a year, as well as several other factors, including whether the participants in the study had a psychiatric diagnosis.
The productivity loss, i.e., the economic loss to society, was then calculated based on the number of sick days and average wage rates in the general population.
The calculations showed that for each person with moderate mental health in 2019, the productivity loss was USD $1300-1600 lower the following year – when compared to the productivity loss of people with poor mental health.
The number was even higher when it came to good mental health. For each person with good mental health in 2019, the productivity loss was USD $1800-2400 lower the following year.
Finally, the total productivity loss for the Danish population in 2020 were calculated, and these estimates were substantial.
Ziggi Santini explained: "When compared to the proportion of people with poor mental health in the Danish population, our results show that good mental health in the total population is associated with lower annual productivity loss amounting to a total of USD $0.9-1.3bn. Overall, our results suggest that productivity losses will be lowest when mental wellbeing is at the highest possible level. In other words, the better the mental health, the lower the loss to productivity."
Commenting on the findings, co-author David McDaid from the London School of Economics and Political Science added: “The study provides further evidence of the importance of taking steps to ensure that the workplace environment helps promote better wellbeing in the UK, Denmark and other countries. This will bring benefits to employers and the wider economy.
“Making the work more attractive, not just financially, but also in terms of wellbeing, may be critical given the major inflationary pressures and recruitment challenges employers face. Even before the cost-of-living crisis, UK employers already had to contend with costs of up to £56 billion per annum due to poor staff mental health, while the number of people of working age who have left the labour force and are considered to be economically inactive has now risen to 9 million people.”
For a copy of the study, please visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212657022000198?via%3Dihub