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How Employee Loneliness Affects Your Bottomline

According to a recent study by Cigna, loneliness in America has reached epidemic proportions. Their survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults revealed:

  • Nearly 50% report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.
  • Nearly 30% rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • More than 40% sometimes or always feel isolated from others.

As interesting (or sad) as these findings may be, what does all this have to do with your bottom line? Well, there’s this:

Loneliness Affects Physical Health

If you’re a regular reader of Espyr® blogs, you’re already aware that mental health issues can affect physical health, and unhealthy employees raise your healthcare spend. The surprise, here, is that loneliness can do the same thing. In fact, the American Psychological Association has stated loneliness is just as much of a public health hazard as obesity, if not greater.

Pulling together research from more than 200 studies involving a combined 3.7 million participants, they uncovered these startling results:

  • Social isolation, loneliness or living alone each played a significant role in premature death.
  • Conversely, people with greater social connections (those who are less lonely) had a 50% reduced risk of premature death.

And we’re not just talking about senior citizens, here (although, that is an issue). The Cigna study also found that our youngest adults, those aged 18 – 22, say they are the loneliest generation and claim to be in worse physical health than their older counterparts.

“One theory is that loneliness and isolation can lead to anxiety,” said Fran Walfish, a California family and relationship psychotherapist. “And without taking action, it’s only likely to get worse.”

Physical Health Affects Your Bottom Line

With poor employee physical health – whatever the cause – comes decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and increased healthcare costs, among many other unwanted results. But there are certain costs associated specifically with loneliness.

A U.K.-based nonprofit, the Campaign to End Loneliness, has discovered that lonely people are more likely to have a higher use of medication and a higher incidence of falling, increasing their risk of requiring long-term care. In fact, they’ve put together a list of loneliness-induced physical issues, each coming at a cost to employers:

  • Loneliness and isolation risk factors are as negatively influential as cigarette smoking.
  • Loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure.
  • Loneliness increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • Loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.

The Center for Workplace Mental Health also points out that loneliness can lead to “mental sluggishness” that can impair productivity, stifle creativity and hinder decision-making. These problems not only eat into a company’s profits, they pose very real life-and-death dangers in the workplace.

Treating the Symptoms and the Source

Improving employees’ health is important, and will never go away. It helps companies in all kinds of ways, from boosting morale to boosting the bottom line. But the secret to a happier, healthier, more productive workforce is to go to the source of the problem.

As part of the ongoing conversation about employers fine-tuning their healthcare plan, it’s becoming more obvious that mental health must also work its way into the mix. Companies like Espyr® are developing products that are bridging the gap between physical and mental health. Whether incorporated into a customized Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or not, Espyr’s broad selection of innovative solutions can proactively identify at-risk employees, can provide Masters-level counseling and coaching support or simply provide a platform for conversation.

Even for harder-to-grasp issues like loneliness, we’re able to make a difference.

For more information on Espyr and how we can help your company deal with today’s complicated health issues, call 888-570-3479 or go to espyr.com.

 

 

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