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Link between Mental Health Days and Mortality Risk

work stress

A new study has shown a strong connection between people who take mental health days at work, and a higher risk of death due to certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and suicide. The researchers indicate that this may be because people who take time off for work because of psychiatric issues, are often experiencing more severe symptoms.

The researchers looked at data pertaining to the sick days of nearly 20,000 workers between 1990 and 1992. The sick days included those related to both mental health and non-mental health reasons. This data was then compared to mortality data from 1993 to 2008.

They found a strong correlation between those workers (7 percent of the group) who had absences exceeding seven days for a psychiatric condition and their rate of death during the subsequent 16 year period. These workers were much more likely to die from suicide (6 times), cancers related to smoking (1.5 times) and cardiovascular disease (2 times) compared to those workers who didn’t take any sick days.

This research suggests that psychiatric illness can be as debilitating as physical sickness, and increase mortality risks just as much. It may also provide helpful information towards identifying people who are in the high risk group so effective treatment can occur.
The data could signal, in other words, that serious mental illness is just as debilitating as physical illness, with similar long-term effects on overall survival.

The researchers acknowledge limitations to their study, including the likelihood that psychiatric disorders may have been underreported because of stigma and other health conditions frequently associated with such conditions.

But they also note the value that could come with identifying at-risk individuals and targeting them for interventions.

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