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Poor worker mental health costs the U.S. $48 billion per year, survey suggests

Surgeon general on impact of toxic workplaces
U.S. surgeon general discusses impact of toxic workplaces on mental and physical health 06:39

Jobs in the U.S. are more likely to hurt workers' mental health than to benefit it, and that comes at great cost to the economy, according to a new poll.

 A Gallup survey of nearly 16,000 working adults in the U.S. found that nearly one in five workers rate their mental health as only "fair" or "poor," with those employees taking an average of 12 unplanned days off annually. Extrapolated across the entire workforce, the collective missed days cost the economy nearly $48 billion annually in lost productivity, the researchers said.

Workers in a better frame of mind have 2.5 days worth of unplanned absences a year. Broken down, the cost of a missed workday is at least $340 per day for full-time workers and $170 per day for part-time workers, according to Gallup. 

Young women struggle most

Working women under the age of 30 are more likely to struggle with their mental health than other groups in the workforce, with 36% of young female employees reporting subpar mental health. 

More broadly, four in 10 workers said their job negatively affects their mental health, versus three in 10 workers who say it makes them mentally healthier. Nearly half of workers under the age of 30 report that their job causes them stress, depression and other issues. By contrast, workers aged 65 and older overwhelmingly say their job has a positive impact on their mental health. 

As workers progress in their careers, they tend to do more meaningful work and also gain autonomy — features of a job that make it more fulfilling, Gallup said. More workers in their later years are also opting to continue working, presumably because their jobs bring them satisfaction.

A recent report by the Office of the Surgeon General found that difficult managers and a cutthroat work culture can take a steep toll on employees' mental and physical health. Job factors such as low wages, discrimination, harassment, overwork, long commutes and other factors can lead to chronic physical health conditions like heart disease and cancer as well as depression and anxiety, according to the study. 

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