Mental Health in the Workplace

Prevalence of Mental Health Issues in the US

Mental illness is no stranger to most people in the US. It is likely that even if you have not experienced a mental illness personally, you know someone who has. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 US adults experience a mental illness every year. 

There are numerous factors to consider when looking at mental illness and its occurrence. One of those factors involves a person’s job or workplace. More than 160 million people make up the US workforce, and they will spend about half of their waking hours working. It is understandable to see how someone’s job might affect their mental health when it is such a huge part of their life.

Ways a Job Can Affect Mental Health

Within the job itself, there are numerous factors to consider that might affect someone’s mental health. These factors can continue to affect someone outside of the workplace as well. For example, the actual number of working hours someone performs can affect that person’s mental and physical health. Certain jobs that require overtime compared to someone working part-time hours is an example of how this can vary. Another potential factor is the environment of the job. More specifically, where a person works, the nature of the environment (warehouse setting versus an office), and coworkers can all play a role in how a job might affect mental health. Financial stress is another factor to consider, and many factors can affect one another. For example, if someone is not being paid adequately, they may feel forced to increase the number of hours they work even if it means sacrificing their health, in order to pay their bills. As shown with recent research, these negative influences are more common than some might think.

Issues Surrounding Work Conditions

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about 2 in 5 workers feel their work environment has negatively impacted their mental health. In a recent survey done by the APA, the most common desired support chosen for employees from their employers, with regards to mental health, was flexible work hours. This was closely followed by respect for time off, remote work, and the utilization of a four-day work week. However, many jobs cannot be performed remotely, and many employers require a heavy commitment to specific hours. Jobs in service, for example, typically require frequent work on weekends and holidays. Other jobs, such as warehouse jobs, require overtime.

 In addition, the majority of those who participated in the survey are concerned about proper compensation, notably, that compensation has not kept up with inflation. Compared to the average cost of living across the US, that concern is valid. Over half of the people surveyed that were monitored by employers claimed it increased their stress at work. Stress undoubtedly contributes to both physical and mental health, as well as job performance. Those in customer service and manual labor jobs reported a higher frequency of toxic and abusive behaviors in the workplace. 

Recommendations for Improvement 

Mental health issues not only affect the person experiencing them, but also affect the business they work for. Research suggests that employees with higher stress levels or with a high prevalence of mental health issues result in lower productivity and attendance. This loss of productivity ends up costing the company and the country more money. There are several ways in which companies and businesses can take mental health into consideration. This can help them make improvements for their employees, leading to less turnover and higher production. 

Compensating workers appropriately with a livable wage is one way companies can help employees. Less financial stress contributes to employee satisfaction and mental health. Investing in health care coverage that includes mental health services is an important consideration for companies. According to the APA, this is also something many people consider when looking for a job. When people have access to the help they need, everyone benefits. Increasing the flexibility for where, when, and how a person works is critical for someone to maintain a work-life balance and prevent burnout. Allowing remote work, respecting time off, and allowing flexibility with working hours are all ways to improve this factor. Enhancing safety, both physically and in terms of inclusion, has been shown to improve employee satisfaction. This can look like providing adequate training for both employees and managers, in addition to establishing safety and inclusion policies that are also implemented. 


The US Surgeon General published guidance last year on how organizations and employers can create a positive work environment that supports their employees and their business. The Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health and Well-Being in the Workplace outlines a foundation businesses can use to create a better environment for workers. 

The American Psychological Association published results from a Work and Well-Being survey in 2022 that includes several different aspects of someone’s work environment. These results were cited in the Surgeon General’s guidance.

For additional data regarding living wage versus minimum wage by state, click here.

For Additional Mental Health Resources: 

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Alliance on Mental

This blog was written by STM Learning’s editorial staff for educational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific medical or legal advice. For expert information on the discussed subjects, please refer to STM Learning’s publications.

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