Employees who take a mental health leave are more likely to experience a recurrence earlier than those who take a physical health leave, according to a study from the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

The study found that employees who take a physical health leave average nearly four years before experiencing a second episode. In contrast, those who take a mental health leave experience a recurrence around the two-year mark, on average.

“If we understand the timing of a repeated episode, as well as who is at risk of having a recurrence, we can develop more effective prevention programs to help people stay at work,” said Dr. Carolyn Dewa, study lead and head of CAMH’s Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health. The study was published in the June issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

According to CAMH, mental health disability leaves cost approximately $51 billion a year in Canada in healthcare and work disruption costs.

For the study, Dewa and her colleagues looked at the 2003–2006 records of a Canadian company with 13,000 employees. Among this group, 3,593 employees had one or more disability leaves during this period. An episode was at least five continuous days off work related to a medical diagnosis.

Among all workers, 72% who had a disability leave were still at work after a year. Those who were more likely to have a second episode sooner included women, maintenance workers and those with disrupted marriages.

“It’s important to be aware that although workers who have had one mental health disability leave are at risk of having a recurrence, it doesn’t happen immediately,” said Dewa. “These workers want to be back at work, but, unfortunately, sometimes supports to help maintain their health are not available.”

Dewa said employers should focus on return-to-work planning to help employees transition back after a leave, as workplace resources can be very valuable in helping employees who’ve returned from a leave remain on the job longer.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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