Four in five (79%) of employees in Nigeria are at increased risk of developing mental health issues, a new study has shown.
According to the study, negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity, but workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.
The study found that 8 percent of Nigerian employees had an increased risk for developing depression, which is double the actual incidence rate currently recorded and making Nigeria the country with the highest caseload of depression in Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Nigeria is currently the seventh-largest country in the world, and is home to Africa’s highest caseload of depression, ranking 15th in the world in the frequency of suicide, according to WHO.
The study which was published by WellNewMe, a health technology company, also revealed that a third of all the employees are at an increased risk to workplace stress.
Studies have shown that at least one in four persons will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
According to Oge Ilegbune, Principal Clinician at Dennis Ashley Medical Clinic (DAMC), the strong relationship between physical and mental wellbeing is often overlooked. She stated that “An individual is in good health only when there is a balance between the different elements of well-being.
“One can refer to the well-known WHO definition of good health. Being physically fit but mentally or emotionally unwell translates to poor health and a need to seek medical attention. Unfortunately this is still poorly understood in our society.”
She added that healthcare practitioners have a lot of work to do in educating individuals and organizations that a much needed balance is required to achieve complete good health.
Obi Igbokwe, one of the co-founders of WellNewMe and a director at Dennis Ahley Medical Clinic explains that stress is often one of those conditions when left unchecked can have a significant impact on an individual physical and mental state, and sometimes render them incapable of performing an optimal level at work.
According to him, because there are no checks for stress, it often goes unnoticed but still gets reflected in the company’s bottom line noting that besides it being damaging to employees health, it can be a silent killer for a business of any size.
“The result of the survey should be of concern to all organisations including small businesses in Nigeria.” added Chinwe Obinwa, a consultant psychiatrist and founder of Green Oaks Consulting, a mental health service provider that works with organisations to optimize employee mental wellbeing,” she said.
She added, “The business case for mental health interventions in the workplace for addressing mental health difficulties is well established.
“Studies have indicated that tailored mental health programmes would have significant improvement on absenteeism and productivity in the workplace”.