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Treating Workers' Mental Woes May Boost Productivity

But not treating problems resulted in roughly same outcome, research shows

THURSDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment can help workers with mental health problems return to near-normal productivity, but not treating people who have high levels of mental stress seemed to have the same effect, researchers report.

In the study, investigators looked at statistics regarding mental health and productivity levels in more than 60,000 Australian workers.

Not surprisingly, the workers who didn't have symptoms of mental health problems were the most productive on the job.

Those who were in treatment for psychological issues reported lower levels of distress over time, suggesting the treatments were working. Their productivity levels were low at first during treatment but returned to near-normal, the researchers explained in a news release from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

But the workers with high levels of psychological distress who didn't get treatment also saw their productivity levels eventually reach near-normal levels. The study authors aren't sure why that happened but think perhaps the people feeling the most psychological distress work harder or longer.

The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Researchers estimate that mental disorders cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year, due to decreased productivity.

The results suggest that "addressing employee mental health increases employee productivity in the workplace [with] the potential for a positive return-on-investment from an employer's perspective," the authors concluded.

More information

Learn more about mental illness from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, news release, Sept. 10, 2009

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