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Surge in Absenteeism Among Caregivers, Study Finds

The interconnectedness of mental health challenges across families and workplaces underscores the importance of comprehensive mental health benefits and a supportive work environment to address the needs of employed caregivers and their families. According to the American Psychiatric Association Center for Workplace Mental Health, workplace depression costs employers billions, yet treatment yields significant reductions in absenteeism and presenteeism, emphasizing the importance of investing in mental health support.  

The Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), a health and productivity research nonprofit, has published a report with actionable insights for employers and policymakers to support the mental health needs of adolescents, young adults, and caregivers, ultimately contributing to a healthier and more productive workforce. IBI’s survey finds a significant connection between caregiving for a child with mental health needs and an increase in absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.  

IBI’s survey finds that 26% of adolescents and young adults have needed mental health treatment in the last four weeks. However, 70% of those went on to receive treatment, highlighting the potential gap in access. Approximately 81% of adolescents and young adults who received treatment rate their treatment very helpful.  

Only 25% of adolescents and 44% of young adults are getting the recommended amount of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control recommendations. Behavioral apps are used among 41% of adolescents and young adults and deemed helpful by 93% of users in addressing various mental health issues, particularly among heavy smartphone and social media users.  

Caregivers with severe mental distress are more likely to have a child who needs mental health treatment, with 34% of caregivers reporting “severe mental distress” having a child who needs mental health treatment, compared to 15% of those whose child does not need treatment. Engagement significantly suffers as mental distress grows more severe, with 44% of people not engaged.  

There has been a two-found increase in absenteeism among caregivers with a child with mental health needs, with 67% of caregivers whose child needs treatment reporting missing three or more days at work, compared to 33% of caregivers whose child does not need treatment. There is also a four-fold increase in presenteeism among caregivers with mental health needs, with 78% of caregivers whose child needs treatment reporting a reduction in work performance.  

Nearly a quarter (23%) of caregivers indicate that they intend to quit their job in the next six to 12 months. Of those, 54% indicate that the reason for quitting is due to concerns about their child’s health. These results reveal a potential retention crisis brewing for employers. Most alarming is the driving factor—over half cite concerns about their child’s health and well-being as their reason for quitting, pointing to some caregivers feeling unsupported by their employers when juggling work and family responsibilities. 

“We’ve seen significant progress over the last few years with employer’s focusing on the emotional well-being of employees and their family members,” says James Huffman, IBI president and CEO. “The conversation has opened like never before and the introduction of new programs and resources has been critical to helping people. However, this study highlights that there is still work to be done to connect people to the resources that can support them. Employers should consider a broader scope to their programs and factor in the true accessibility of programs and any roadblocks to taking advantage of them.”  

While no employer has direct control over their workers’ personal situations, they do have opportunities to address caregiver needs. Flexible hours, expanded leave, childcare assistance, and managerial training are some ways companies can make a meaningful impact. By accommodating caregivers’ unique circumstances, employers give themselves a fighting chance at retaining these employees.  

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