Impact: Behavioral Health Series

Issue #5; March 3, 2005

Behavioral Health Is Everyone’s Business 

Businesses are constantly striving to increase productivity while minimizing cost.  A critical factor influencing business productivity is the health and welfare of employees.  Healthy employees are capable of producing more goods and services and are less likely to be absent from work.  Low-cost and no-cost interventions that improve employee health improve business profitability.  Recognizing this, many businesses have developed Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to address workforce health issues.   

Research about mental health and substance use disorders – behavioral healthcare - has shown that during a single year, a large percentage of adults in our society experience problems like depression (10%), and substance abuse (11%).  Unfortunately, all too often, these problems go undetected and untreated, resulting in lost business productivity.  For example, people with a major depressive disorder often have sleep problems and sometimes lack the energy to get out of bed in the morning.  At work, they may lack the concentration to focus on their responsibilities and make mistakes that reduce product and service quality.  Similarly, people with substance use disorders may have work attendance problems. Drug or alcohol hangovers sap employee strength, contribute to conflict with co-workers, and set the stage for work-related accidents.  These problems also affect an employee’s home-life, contributing to marital conflict, domestic violence and child rearing problems that can destabilize marriages resulting in employee turnover and increased recruitment and training costs.   

Screening and early intervention is a low cost method for preventing these problems.  Research has shown that, if detected early, a simple statement from a family doctor suggesting that a patient reduce his/her drinking can lead to behavior changes that avoid more serious problems.  Similarly, treatment of depression with low cost antidepressant medications and brief psychotherapy can break the cycle of depression, helping workers return to normal productivity, and lower healthcare premiums.   

Businesses should set goals for reduced absenteeism based on programs designed to combat depression and substance abuse.  In this way they can increase productivity at little or no additional cost.  Traditional 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) also can be an effective means of supporting people who are believed to be having problems.  A modest investment in employee welfare can pay big dividends.   

For more information on how businesses can benefit from attention to behavioral health issues, contact Larry McHugh at the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce (860- 347-6924) or Kate Antonucci at the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council at  or 860-347-5959.

Comments are welcome at

Effective prevention, early identification and treatment are good business. Invest in behavioral health and reap the benefits.

/ Impact Index 2005 /