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Mental Health and Work: Australia

image of Mental Health and Work: Australia

Tackling mental ill-health of the working-age population is a key issue for labour market and social policies in OECD countries. OECD governments increasingly recognise that policy has a major role to play in keeping people with mental ill-health in employment or bringing those outside of the labour market back to it, and in preventing mental illness. This report on Australia is the ninth and last in a series of reports looking at how the broader education, health, social and labour market policy challenges identified in Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities about Mental Health and Work (OECD, 2012) are being tackled in a number of OECD countries. It concludes that policy thinking in Australia shows well-advanced awareness both of the costs of mental illness for society as a whole and of the health benefits of employment. However, challenges remain in: making employment issues a concern of the health care services; helping young people succees in their future working lives; making the workplace a safe, supportive psychosocial environment; and better designing and targeting employment services for jobseekers with mental ill-health.

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Assessment and recommendations

Mental ill-health exacts a high price on Australian society, in terms of individual well-being – at any given moment one in five Australians have a mental disorder – and high economic costs. The direct medical and nonmedical costs of poor mental health are estimated to amount to 2.2% of Australia’s GDP, or AUD 28.6 billion per year. Adding indirect costs, such as productivity loss or sickness absence, nearly doubles that amount.

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