Mental stress costs Australian businesses more than $10 billion per year

Wednesday, 10 April, 2013

Safe Work Australia has released its first report on work-related mental stress and its associated costs based on an analysis of Australian workers’ compensation claims data from 2008-09 to 2010-11. The report includes comparisons of rates of mental stress claims across industry sectors and occupations for male and female workers but does not distinguish between public and private sector workers.

'The Incidence of Accepted Workers’ Compensation Claims for Mental Stress in Australia' report includes details of a Medibank Private commissioned study (Medibank Private 2008) that found in 2007 the total cost of work-related mental stress to the Australian economy was $14.81 billion; the direct cost to employers alone in stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism was $10.11 billion.

The report shows the highest rates of mental stress claims were by workers with high levels of responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of others or workers at risk in dangerous situations. These jobs include train drivers and assistants, police officers, prison officers, ambulance officers and paramedics.

Other key findings of the report are:

  • mental stress claims are the most expensive form of workers’ compensation claim. These claims result in workers often being absent from work for extended periods,
  • mental stress claims are predominantly made by women,
  • more professionals make claims for mental stress than any other occupation. A third of these claims are due to work pressure,
  • the hazards resulting in mental stress claims vary with worker age. Younger workers are more likely to make claims as a result of exposure to workplace or occupational violence. Work pressure is the main cause of mental stress claims for older workers,
  • women were around three times more likely than men to make a workers’ compensation claim as a result of work-related harassment or workplace bullying, and
  • work pressure was stated as the cause of the majority of claims in industries with the highest claim rates.
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