Understanding and exploring the cost of poor mental health at work for organizations and society

Juliet Hassard, Louise Thomson, Holly Blake

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the cost of mental health at work from an employer and societal perspective. We aim to present and reflect on the available evidence of the economic burden and human cost posed by poor mental health at work. A fuller understanding of the potential economic burden of poor mental health at work requires integration and understanding of economic evidence at the interface of occupational health psychology, as we have shown previously (Hassard et al., 2018a, 2018b, 2019, 2021). This chapter is, in broad terms, divided into three key parts. First, we begin by introducing a conceptual model that seeks to understand postulated pathways from exposure to stressful working conditions to employee mental health and, in turn, the associated (human and economic) costs incurred at organizational and societal levels. Second, we explore the costs of poor mental health at work from an employer's perspective. This includes examining and considering both direct and indirect productivity-related costs, while reflecting on the more hidden (intangible) costs associated with human suffering. Subsequently, we explore the costs of mental ill-health to society at large and consider the case for action from a policymaker/ governance perspective. Relating to the healthcare and welfare systems, but also broader concepts such as quality of life and human suffering. By understanding the outcomes for key stakeholders, as evidenced and understood within the wider psychosocial and economic literature, we are in a better position to theoretically understand the economic burden of poor mental health at work and, in turn, the business case underpinning the argument for prevention-focused action and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge companion to mental health at work
EditorsArla Day, Cary L. Cooper
ISBN (Electronic)9781003255574
ISBN (Print)9781032186535
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Companions in Business and Management


  • mental health
  • work


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