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Measuring the value of investing in workplace mental health

Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on January 07, 2020

“The business case for investing in employee mental health and wellbeing is robust and well-established in Canada and around the world. Organizations that track their costs and savings consistently show a positive ROI within two to three years for substantive business increases."

Greg Kyllo, National Director, Program Innovation, Canadian Mental Health Association

Editor’s Note: Greg was among the health care experts who spoke at our recent Benefits3 conference series to share the innovative solutions and strategies that are proving effective in developing psychologically safe, healthy and productive workplaces. We curated research findings from CMHA and other sources to highlight the measurable value of investing in mental health resources. As the studies conclude, spending money on mental health and supports improves organizational performance and ultimately boosts the bottom line, by lowering benefit costs, increasing productivity and enhancing efforts to recruit and retain top talent.

Growing prevalence

  • About 21.4 per cent of the working population in Canada are currently experiencing mental health problems. By age 40, that number increases to one in two. (Mental Health Commission of Canada)
  • Mental illness affects 7.5 million Canadians. By comparison 2.2 million people in Canada have type 2 diabetes. (Statistics Canada)
  • The disease burden of mental illness is 1.5 times higher than all cancers 7 times higher than all infectious diseases. (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)

Workplace impacts

  • 50 per cent of millennials have quit a job due to mental health concerns. (CMHA)
  • $1,500 per employee per year is the average cost of mental illness to employers. (CMHA)
  • During episodes of depression or anxiety, productivity can fall by more than 50 per cent per day. (Telus)
  • By 2021, the total economic cost of mental illness is estimated to reach $88.8 billion. (Mental Health Commission of Canada)
  • 61 per cent of employers anticipate mental health will be a serious business risk in five years. (Aon Survey 2019)
  • More than 21 per cent of all drug claims are for the treatment of mental illnesses. (Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health)
  • More than 30 per cent of disability claims and 70 per cent of disability costs are attributed to mental illness. (RGA Benchmark)


  • 60 per cent of Canadians with mental health issues won’t seek expert care because of cost, stigma or access to qualified mental health professionals. (CMHA)
  • 85 per cent of Canadians say mental health services are among the most underfunded in health care. 53% of Canadians consider depression and anxiety epidemic in Canada. (CMHA 2018 Impact Report)

Early intervention

  • Early action and access to services can help decrease productivity losses by as much as 30 per cent. (Fraser Institute 2015)
  • Early intervention resulted in a 28 per cent improvement in STD claimants returning to work before the end of the STD benefit period. (Medavie Blue Cross)


  • 95 per cent of depression can be effectively treated with a combination of evidence-based psychotherapy and medications. (BEACON clinical research)
  • iCBT (Internet-enabled Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can dramatically lower the cost of treatment by up to 80 per cent. (BEACON calculation)
  • Approximately 70 per cent of ER and clinic visits can be replaced by virtual consultations without any impact on quality of care.(Truven Health Analytics)
  • 75 per cent of Canadians believe new technologies can solve issues in the healthcare system. (Canadian Medical Association)


  • There is a two to four times return on investment for every dollar spent on mental health initiatives in the workplace. (CMHA)
  • Every $1 put into treatment for common mental health conditions, brings a return of $4.80 in improved health and productivity. (World Health Organization)
  • EFAPs provide a return of $8.70 for every $1.00 invested. (Morneau-Shepell)
  • A recent study by Deloitte found that Canadian companies who invest in preventative programs and measurable initiatives to support workplace mental health will make more money than their competitors who don’t invest. One of those companies, Bell Canada, has seen mental health-related short-term disability (STD) relapse and recurrence drop 50 per cent since 2010 and STD claims decline 20 per cent.

The research findings point to the reasons why, as Greg Kyllo stated, that:

“The conversation in Canada has largely shifted from trying to convince businesses (to invest in mental health supports), to identifying solutions that work.”