The mental health “one in five” statistic examined for validity

This blog has a policy of linking to source documents wherever possible. Recently I investigated the origin of the statement, and its variations:

“In a 12 month period, 20 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition.”

Clarity on this is going to be important as Australia has several formal inquiries relating to mental health and this statement often crops up in strategy documents and policies related to occupational health and safety (OHS).

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The absence of OHS says much

Workplace safety is an integral element of managing any business. The acceptance of this reality by business leaders is restated every time a Chief Executive Officer claims that “safety is our number 1 priority”. The mismanagement of safety and health can also subject personal and corporate reputations to considerable damage So it is reasonable to expect some mention of occupational health and safety (OHS) in a recent survey from the Australian Industry Group concerning business prospects for 2019. Nah, nothing.

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Expenditure data needs more depth

An August 2018 report from Ontario’s Institute for Work and Health (IWH) opens stating:

“Whilst the financial cost of work-related injury and illness are well known, limited information is available on what employers spend to control or eliminate the causes of work-related injury and illness.”

This is questionable. The cost of traumatic injuries may be well-known and the cost to business may be well-known but only if one exempts the cost of work-related psychological health, as this survey seems to do, and only if one considers the related business costs as almost entirely workers’ compensation. There is a

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If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS).  The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).  This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.

The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them.  Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission.  It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.

The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.

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A new statistical perspective on work-related injuries and illnesses

In late October 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released a summary of the latest work-related injury and illness data, although it was easy to miss as few, if anyone, reported on it. On first view, that mental health is barely mentioned in the Summary is surprising and the workers compensation data raises interesting policy questions.

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