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ValueOptions'(R) 'Anxiety Scale': Unemployment, Anxiety Ride Together to New Heights

NORFOLK, Va., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- With Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifying to a Senate committee today that unemployment will remain high, expect something else to stick around: Unemployment's sidekick, anxiety.

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Behavioral health care leader ValueOptions® today released a report showing that the working public's anxiety has marched upward in lock-step with the unemployment rate.

ValueOptions®, which operates EAP programs for many Fortune 500 companies, noticed that once unemployment hit 8 percent in Feb. of last year, more than 50 percent of its EAP members reported moderate or severe anxiety. And to have access to an EAP, a person would have to have a job or be a family member.

"This shows that people are worried about losing their jobs, even if they have a good one," said Rich Paul, vice president of Health and Performance Solutions. "This is a vivid reminder to employers that anxiety levels are remaining high."

Before May 2008, this "anxiety scale" only breeched 50 percent twice. But the anxiety scale has now topped 50 percent 16 times in 20 months. Through December 2009, it has been above that mark 11 consecutive months, reported ValueOptions, the nation's largest independent behavioral health company. The measurement factors in provider assessments of more than 5,900 EAP members each month – more than 240,000 since 2006.

Anxiety can dovetail with other problems, Paul said, like substance abuse, depression or relationships difficulties with friends and family. On the job, anxiety can result in "presenteeism" – being at work, but mentally preoccupied with other issues. The vast majority of companies – 96 percent – have employee assistance programs through which workers can get free counseling, and Paul said companies should be promoting their availability right now.

"The biggest change we're seeing from a couple of years ago is that people are calling with much more severity to their problems," Paul said. "The cases are much more complex and often involve multiple issues."

About ValueOptions®, Inc.

ValueOptions®, Inc., the nation's largest independent behavioral health and wellness company, provides services to more than 22 million individuals through a variety of contracts with state and county agencies and, additionally, with health plans and employers. ValueOptions® is a national behavioral health and wellness company that specializes in management for all behavioral health issues and promotes health and wellness through innovative programs. The mission of ValueOptions is to improve the health and wellness for the people it serves.

SOURCE ValueOptions

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