Huge Rise in Global Employee Depression, Stress, and Anxiety Since 2012

01/07/2016 05:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Employee mental health is an issue that impacts the ultimate success of every business on the planet. If you're a business leader and your employees' emotional well-being wasn't already on the top of your list of priorities for 2016, it needs to be.

The results of a recent analysis of three years' worth of global Employee Assistance Program (EAP) data paint the picture pretty clearly - employees are seeking help for more significant and more severe emotional health issues than ever before.

My company, Workplace Options, looked at a relatively stable population of more than 100,000 employees across Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America, and South America. These employees represented five different global employers, each of which had employees in at least four of the regions. We looked at every instance from 2012-2014 when any of these people contacted their EAP for support.

What we found is that the total number of calls and inquiries regarding emotional health issues remained relatively consistent across all three years. However, the nature of those calls changed at an alarming rate:

• About 4 out of every 10 cases over the three year period were related to personal emotional health issues (42 percent in 2012; 38 percent in 2013; 42 percent in 2014)
• The number of cases dealing with employee depression increased 58 percent between 2012 and 2014.
• The number of cases dealing with employee anxiety increased 74 percent.
• The number of cases dealing with employee stress increased 28 percent.
• Combined, employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 55.2 percent of all emotional health cases in 2012 compared to 82.6 percent in 2014.

These numbers reflect two significant trends that impact businesses across the world. More and more employees are obviously struggling with very serious emotional health issues like depression, stress and anxiety. And at the same time, those struggling seem more willing to reach out for help.

When you look at a geographic breakdown of the results of this analysis, a pretty consistent pattern emerges from regions around the world:

2016-01-06-1452097376-2046464-HuffPostGlobalEAPDataRegionalTable.png

My interpretation of what all this means is pretty simple. Instances of reported emotional health issues like depression, stress, and anxiety are on the rise. At the same time, the stigma of reaching out for help with these things is slowly starting to dissipate in most parts of the world. As this happens, businesses need to carefully consider whether they have the right support structures in place to help their employees prosper - both personally and professionally.