Stress is now the number one cause of long-term sick leave

Stress is now the number one cause of long-term sick leave

By William Smith

I regularly receive news updates from a health insurance site ‘’ and one recent article particularly caught my interest.  It asks that, with stress now being the number one reason for employee absence, is it time that insurers and intermediaries need to look at their approach to mental health?

The article mentions the case of a teacher who set himself on fire in his car in the car park of his school after becoming depressed.   It then asks whether speedy access to cognitive behavioural therapy or some other form of mental health or psychiatric support could have made this tragedy avoidable. 

The inquest in February into the teacher’s death was told that his GP had chased his local NHS trust on four separate occasions to carry out an assessment for referral to talking therapy.  Unfortunately the doctor’s calls went unheard and unanswered.  We know that there can then be a lengthy wait after assessment before any such therapy is initiated.

A survey which was conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in conjunction with Simplyhealth was published ast October.  It calculated that stress has now overtaken musculoskeletal disorders such as bad backs to become the most common cause of long-term sickness for both manual and non-manual workers.

A more recent analysis of the government sickness benefits claimant data conducted by Legal and General calculated that more than 260,000 people are claiming sickness benefits as a result of mental and behavioural disorders. 

The article goes on to say that mental ill-health benefits, especially psychiatric benefits have traditionally been seen as something of an expensive ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’ when it comes to budgeting for insurance cover, particularly private medical insurance cover.

Surely, with figures such as stated above, it is time that all employers face up to the problem of mental illness and find a way to cover their employees if and when they need prompt access to therapy.  In the long-term it seems to make sound economic and social sense.

Many personal private health insurances do not cover for mental health disorders.  For those who are in a financial situation where they can afford personal health insurance it would seem wise to make sure that their cover extends to the provision of therapies and treatment for mental health disorders as well as physical illness.

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