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15/09/2010 - Submitted by: Lynch Leonie

For every 1,000 Canadian employees, 145 short-term leaves are taken annually and about 20 of those are related to mental health, the study found. "Only a fraction of disability leaves are due to mental illness yet it costs employers the most. It is crucial that businesses make mental health and wellbeing a priority to prevent disability in the first place," said Carolyn Dewa, lead investigator in the study and CAMH's head of work and well-being research. Dewa's study, which appeared in the summer issue of the Journal of Environmental Medicine, showed that the average short-term physical disability leave is about 33 days. On average employers pay $9,000 for each case. The study found the most common reasons employees take physical disability leave include respiratory illness, muscular skeletal problems, injury and digestive disorders. Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are the mental illnesses that appear most in the Canadian workforce, with each case leading to an average 65-day leave and $18,000 bill. About 10 per cent of Canadians in the workforce between 18 and 54 years old suffer from mental health issues. Dewa centred her investigation on an Ontario company with more than 12,400 employees in various cities and rural areas. She said the project was a "mutual collaboration" and the company approached CAMH because it was interested in making sure it had a healthy workplace. Dewa could not identify the company but said it represents 13 per cent of the Ontario resource sector with employees in various levels including maintenance, administration, engineering and technology. The researchers looked at more than 33,900 records from 2003 to 2006 to compile their findings and Dewa said her team's findings reflect the rest of the province. Companies should invest in early intervention strategies, access to support systems to help cope with stress and offer help with medical expenses to keep employees healthy and aware of a good work/life balance, Dewa said. The organization is now examining how strong the connection is between workplace stress and mental health. "We're still trying to figure out how much work contributes to overall stress. Once you walk into the door of your workplace, you don't stop thinking about home and once you get home, you don't stop thinking of work," she said. Another report released Wednesday said that Ontario could spend $7 billion a year in health care and lost productivity, as more than one in 10 Ontarians could be suffering from diabetes by 2020. The Canadian Diabetes Association's study said the illness already costs $4.9 billion annually, mostly in lost productivity and long-term disability claims. Another $1 billion is spent on hospital visits, doctors' fees and medications. © Copyright The Vancouver Sun

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The Vancouver Sun