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The interconnectedness of mental health challenges across families and workplaces underscores the importance of comprehensive mental health benefits and a supportive work environment to address the needs of employed caregivers and their families. According to the American Psychiatric Association Center for Workplace Mental Health, workplace depression costs employers billions, yet treatment yields significant reductions in absenteeism and presenteeism, emphasizing the importance of investing in mental health support.

The Integrated Benefit Institute, a health and productivity research non-profit, published a report with actionable insights for employers and policymakers to support the mental health needs of adolescents, young adults, and caregivers, ultimately contributing to a healthier and more productive workforce. IBI conducted two surveys*, one with adolescents and young adults (16-26 years old), and one with employed caregivers. The survey found a significant connection between caregiving for a child with mental health needs and an increase in absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.

Challenges among Adolescents and Young Adults

IBI’s survey found that 26% of adolescents and young adults needed mental health treatment in the past four weeks. However, 70% of those went on to receive treatment, highlighting a potential gap in access. Eighty-one percent of adolescents and young adults who received treatment rated their treatment very helpful.

Only 25% of adolescents and 44% of young adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep according to Centers for Disease control recommendations. Behavioral apps are used among 41% of adolescents and young adults surveyed and deemed helpful by 93% of users in addressing various mental health issues, particularly among heavy smartphone and social media users.

Caregivers’ Mental Well-Being and Productivity

IBI’s survey found that caregivers with severe mental distress are more likely to have a child who needs mental health treatment. Thirty-four percent of caregivers reported experiencing “severe mental distress” have a child who needs mental health treatment, compared to 15% of those whose child does not need treatment. Engagement significant suffers as mental distress grows more severe. Forty-four percent of those with “severe mental distress” are not engaged, compared to only 20% of those with “severe mental distress” who are engaged.

There was a two-fold increase in absenteeism among caregivers with a child with mental health needs. Sixty-seven percent of caregivers whose child needed treatment report missing 3+ days of work, compared to 33% of caregivers whose child did not need treatment. There was a four-fold increase in presenteeism among caregivers with mental health needs. Seventy-eight percent of caregivers whose child needed treatment reported a reduction in work performance, compared to only 22% of caregivers whose child does not need treatment.

What does this mean for employers?

Twenty-three percent of caregivers surveyed indicated that they intend to quit their job in the next 6 to 12 months. Of those, 54% indicated that the reason is due to concerns about their child’s health. These results reveal a potential retention crisis brewing for employers. With nearly a quarter of caregivers looking to leave their positions within the next year, companies could be facing a mass exodus of talent. Most alarming is the driving factor - over half cited concerns about their child's health and well-being as their reason for quitting. This points to some caregivers feeling unsupported by their employers when juggling work and family responsibilities.

“We’ve seen significant progress over the past few years with employer’s focusing on the emotional well-being of employees and their family members. The conversation has opened up like never before and the introduction of new programs and resources has been critical to helping people,” says IBI President and CEO James Huffman, MSHCT. “However, this study highlights that there is still work to be done to connect people to the resources that can support them. Employers should consider a broader scope to their programs and factor in the true accessibility of programs and any roadblocks to taking advantage of them.”    

While no employer has direct control over their workers' personal situations, they do have opportunities to address caregiver needs. Flexible hours, expanded leave, childcare assistance, and managerial training are some ways companies could make a meaningful impact. By accommodating caregivers' unique circumstances, employers give themselves a fighting chance at retaining these employees.

For more information the report and infographic are available upon request, please contact Jennifer Santisi at jsantisi@ibiweb.org.

* The survey included questions on smartphone use, social media use, utilization of behavioral apps, mental well-being, mental healthcare utilization, and demographic characteristics for adolescents and young adults. For caregivers, we employed the Kessler 6-item measure to assess mental distress, covering feelings of nervousness, hopelessness, restlessness, sadness, worthlessness, and effort over the past 30 days, with strong validation evidence supporting various uses, including clinically relevant anxiety/depression and severe mental distress. Both versions of the measure were included to capture relevant insights for employers concerning healthcare claims costs and absenteeism.

About Integrated Benefits Institute

The Integrated Benefit Institute’s independent research, industry-leading tools and data resources help companies link health-related programs to the outcomes that maximize the contributions of people to productivity and business performance. Founded in 1995, IBI is a national nonprofit research organization and business association serving more than 1,600 employer and supplier members and their 22+ million employees. For additional information, please visit www.ibiweb.org and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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