The mental health crisis is costing the Northern Virginia region $8 billion a year in unrealized economic output, according to a new report. report from the Northern Virginia Community Foundation.
Report from the foundation research team, Knowledge areafound that the economic damage caused by mental health has quadrupled since 2019, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020.
In 2019, mental health issues among workers reduced regional productivity by about 1%, or $2.1 billion in potential gross regional product (GRP). About 11% of working adults experience anxiety or mild depression during that time.
However, during the pandemic, more than half of workers reported high levels of anxiety or depression. As of May 2023, that statistic holds with 53% of the workforce struggling.
According to the report, rising levels of mental health needs reduce labor productivity by 2.1 percentage points or more than $8 billion in potential GRP per year.
The report says millions of Americans have left the workforce in the past three years, and one in four blame their exit on mental health. Those job losses don’t just negatively impact workers and their families.
It also affects team members who have to make up for lost output; The employer bears the costs of recruiting and receiving new employees; and the local economy in gross regional product has not yet realized.
Most workers with anxiety and depression continue to work, meaning some of the lost productivity can be due to absenteeism and presenteeism or an employee is technically working but not join. This lack of engagement can often lead to procrastination and missed deadlines.
Overall, for each worker with a mental health need, their team can expect a total productivity loss of between 5% and 13%, or a loss of between 2 and 5 hours over a period of time. 40-hour workweek, according to the report. These behaviors can lead to a rapid decline in productivity, at a much higher rate than under other conditions.
The Community Foundation has collaborated on research with George Mason University. Keith Waters, assistant director at the university’s Center for Regional Analysis, presented the findings last week during an event at the foundation’s headquarters in Fairfax.
Waters said research shows that as mental health problems become more severe, productivity also declines.
As you go from having no mental health problems to having more severe mental health problems, he adds, your productivity declines more severely, you miss more work, and then your current presentation problems become more serious.
Waters noted that measuring productivity losses is difficult, especially in professional and business services industries, which have suffered the greatest economic losses. Nearly half of those workers said they were struggling with mental health issues, causing that industry to record a loss of $2.3 billion in 2022.
The report notes that the sectors with the highest need including education and health services, commerce, transport and utilities had anxiety and depression rates in excess of 60% and also suffered heavy losses. about productivity.
Waters said if workers were more productive, the state would collect more taxes and be better equipped to support mental health needs.
He says it will improve overall quality of life because you can provide other supports.
To address rising anxiety and depression, the report says understanding the causes is imperative.
The report lists workplace and family burnout and income instability as examples of stressors that contribute to anxiety and depression. And inadequate social support and self-help may contribute to a reduced ability to cope with those stresses.
An individual’s ability to cope with stressors plays an important role in their mental health and is influenced in part by the strength and quality of their relationships (including both the individual’s ability to talk about and respond to mental health challenges) and the individual’s ability to provide care. for their own welfare, the report said.
Recommendations to address workers’ mental health needs include employers addressing mental health challenges through employee assistance programs and policy changes and workplace culture.
Helping workers reduce and manage stress caused not only by occupational burnout but also by the stress of being parents, service providers, students and caregivers may be key, the report says. key to enhancing the region’s economic competitiveness.
The new report highlights the growing need for mental health services in Northern Virginia
Acacia James covers Fairfax County with a focus on affordable housing, transportation access and other issues affecting underserved communities.
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