U.S. Surgeon General Targets Link Between Mental Well-Being And Workplace Abuse
The U.S. lags far behind other countries in addressing the harmful impact of workplace abuse on the mental and physical health of American workers.
A former Planned Parenthood official recently sued the organization for race discrimination, claiming the alleged abuse caused her to suffer such severe anxiety that her hair fell out.
Targets of workplace abuse routinely experience symptoms like those described by Nicole Moore, an African-American and former director of multicultural brand engagement at Planned Parenthood in New York.
If left unaddressed, chronic stress at work can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, cancer and autoimmune diseases, as well as substance abuse and suicidal idealization.
Decades of medical research shows that workplace stress contributes to the “U.S. health disadvantage,” including poorer health and shorter lifespans compared with other wealthy countries. It also costs employers more than half a trillion dollars in lost productivity each year.
Yet the U.S. lags far behind other industrialized countries that adopted workplace bullying prohibitions decades ago, including Britain, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Fance and Sweden.
A Critical Priority
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy’s recently issued a 30-page report, Workplace Mental Health & Well-Being, that serves as a major acknowledgement of the problem which has been sorely lacking until now. He called workplace mental health and well-being “a critical priority for public health.”
Dr. Murthy contends the pandemic exascerbated the problem of stress in the workplace.
The report refers to a 2021 survey of 1,500 workers by Mind Share Partners, a non-profit group that works to improve mental health in the workplace, across the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. The survey found:
76% of those surveyed reported at least one symptom of a mental health condition, an increase of 17% in two years.
84% of respondents said one workplace factor (e.g., emotionally draining work, challenges with work-life balance, or lack of recognition) had a negative impact on their mental health.
Half of study respondents reported having left previous roles at a company due, at least in part, to mental health reasons, compared to a third (34%) in 2019.
Only 47% of workers believed their company leaders were advocates for mental health at work.
The report states employers are increasingly concerned that workplace stress has resulted in declines in work performance and worker shortages due to early departure from the workforce by workers concerned about health, work-life conflicts and burnout.
“While the pandemic did not create these work conditions, it worsened many of them,” states the report.
The Five Essentials
Dr. Murthy’s report lists a framework for employers to achieve workplace mental health and well-being that includes five “essentials”:
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