As health officials continue to raise concerns about the growing loneliness epidemic, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy highlights the close link between loneliness and depression. The prevalence of depression is on the rise globally, affecting around 280 million people, or 5% of adults, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Depression, a common mental health disorder, has profound effects on sleep, appetite, decision-making, focus, time management, and social connections.
Dr. Murthy emphasizes that the economic impact of depression alone is approximately one trillion dollars each year globally. This staggering figure does not account for anxiety and other physical illnesses associated with loneliness and isolation.
In response to the increasing rates of loneliness and poor mental health, Dr. Murthy outlines an advisory detailing ways in which workplaces can support their employees’ mental well-being. He stresses the importance of fostering a supportive, inclusive environment that addresses rather than exacerbates loneliness and mental health issues like depression. A workplace that prioritizes well-being can lead to improved employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.
Dr. Murthy identifies five key pillars for supporting mental health in the workplace:
- Protect workers from harm
- Support community and connection
- Optimize work-life harmony
- Create opportunities for workers to grow
- Ensure employees know they and their work matter
Especially in the wake of the pandemic and the prevalence of remote work, Dr. Murthy emphasizes the significance of supporting employees. Engaged employees are crucial for a company’s success, and leaders have a responsibility to prioritize mental health in the workplace. The benefits extend beyond the organization itself, contributing to the well-being of the broader community.
As workplaces navigate the evolving landscape, implementing strategies to support mental health becomes paramount, with potential positive outcomes for both employees and the organizations they serve.