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Employers cite growing concerns about mental health of workers, survey finds


More large companies reported greater challenges with anxiety and depression. Some employers are expressing a bit less enthusiasm for telehealth.

Most employers say they are seeing more mental health concerns in their workers, a recent survey finds.

Employers are citing growing concerns over mental health challenges in their workers and prescription drug costs, according to a survey by the Business Group on Health. (Image credit: ©utah51 - stock.adobe.com)

Employers are citing growing concerns over mental health challenges in their workers and prescription drug costs, according to a survey by the Business Group on Health. (Image credit: ©utah51 - stock.adobe.com)

More than three out of four large employers (77%) reported an increase in mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder, according to the Business Group on Health, a nonprofit group representing large employers. An additional 16% of employers anticipate an increase in mental health concerns.

That represents a sharp increase from a year ago, when 44% of employers said they were seeing greater mental health concerns in their workforce. The Business Group on Health released the findings of the new survey this week.

Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of the Business Group on Health, said that employers will be grappling with more mental health challenges.

“Our survey found that in 2024 and for the near future, employers will be acutely focused on addressing employees’ mental health needs while ensuring access and lowering cost barriers,” Kelsay said in a statement.

Employers are focused on providing more access to mental health services, including offering more services and finding ways to make services less costly, the report states.

Employers said cancer was the top driver of higher healthcare costs, and some speculate it’s due to later diagnoses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some studies have found screenings for cancers were delayed during the pandemic.

The vast majority of employers said they are concerned about drug prices, with 92% expressing concerns about high-cost drugs in the pipeline and 91% expressing some concerns about the overall trends in pharmacy costs.

Employers are spending more on pharmacy costs, with the median percentage of healthcare dollars on drugs rising from 21% in 2021 to 24% in 2022, according to the report.

While most employers still see value in telehealth, the study also indicates that some companies are less enthusiastic about virtual care than they were in the past.

Less than two-thirds of employers (64%) said they saw virtual health as essential to their overall strategy, down from 85% in 2021.

Some employers are expressing concerns about a lack of coordination between telehealth providers and community-based providers, while some are raising questions about the quality of virtual care.

In 2024, employers said they plan to take a closer look at the quality of their vendors and healthcare providers, in terms of cost, quality and return of investment. Employers will also be pressing for more transparency in pricing and results, the survey indicates.

Some employers say they will be seeking more transparency in hospital rates.

The group surveyed 152 large employers, which represent more than 19 million Americans, between June 1 and July 18.

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