In 2020, children under 18 accounted for 25% of mental health spending.

In 2020, children under 18 accounted for 25% of mental health spending.

While older adults account for the lion’s share of overall health care costs, those under 25 are propelling a slow and steady increase in mental health and addictions spending, according to a report by the Benefits Research Institute. employee benefits (EBRI).

Why is it important: Employers face an increasingly difficult balancing act: they know that strong mental health benefits are key to attracting and retaining top talent, but they chafe at the rising cost of providing these benefits, especially as more and more people use them.

Driving the news: EBRI’s seven-year survey of employer-sponsored health plans found mental health and addictions spending increased from 6.8% of total costs in 2013 to 8.2% in 2020.

  • People under 25 set the trend: while they’re wearing makeup 36% of the population, they represented 42% spending on mental health and addiction treatment in 2020, compared to only 20% overall health expenditure.
  • In contrast, people aged 55 to 64 accounted for 27% overall health expenditure, but only 11% mental health expenditure.
  • Employers and workers spent $77 billion on mental health disorders in 2020 – a number that has likely increased since then.

By the numbers: About 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 young people suffer from mental illness each year, and those rates have been rising, the EBRI said.

  • Over 20 million Americans have a substance use problem.
  • In 2020, 18.5% of people under the age of 65 with work-related health cover were diagnosed with a mental health disorder, up from 14.2% in 2013.
  • Also in 2020, 16% of covered employees used outpatient mental health services, up from 12% in 2013.

Children appear as the biggest consumers of mental health: People under 18 “use mental health and addiction by far at a higher spend,” said Paul Fronstin, director of health benefits research at EBRI, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.

  • In March, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared the mental health crisis in children a national emergency.

Yes, but: EBRI results do not include all pandemic-related figures – 2021 figures will not be released until the end of the year, and 2020 results do not fully reflect the wave of demand that has emerged during closures and layoffs.

  • A shortage of online counselors and treatment options may have artificially reduced mental health spending, particularly at the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • “We’re missing some things in the data because people couldn’t get treatment,” Fronstin told Axios. “People were afraid of telemedicine; maybe they were afraid of going to local pharmacies to get medicine. That may have had an impact on our numbers.”

The big picture: Mental health has emerged strongly as a major concern in the workplace, driven by the expectations and demands of young workers – who do not have the same stigma locks as their parents.

  • The priority surprised many CEOs – and prompted them to re-examine their messaging and benefit packages.
  • So far, employers are “doubling down on mental health benefits, despite the cost,” Fronstin said.
  • They know what’s at stake: If they don’t provide muscle treatment options, “it will affect the health of the workforce and its productivity,” he added.

What they say : “The talent war is driving executive thinking about mental health,” said Phillip Schermer, founder and CEO of Project Healthy Minds, a new nonprofit developing a playbook for corporate America on emotional well-being. employees.

  • “We have one of the tightest labor markets in our lifetime,” he said. “One trend that has been made clear by employees is that mental health needs to be on the corporate agenda.”

It’s not just about white collar jobs. “We also heard from retail executives saying that mental health is a top priority for workers,” Schermer said.

Between the lines: Young people aren’t necessarily more anxious and depressed than older people — they’re just more comfortable asking for help, Schermer said.

  • A survey of Millennials and Gen Z by Project Healthy Minds found that 2 out of 3 people consider their mental health when choosing an employer.
  • 60% want their employer to make mental health in the workplace a higher priority.
  • 77% would quit a job if it negatively affected their mental health.

And after: October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

Data: EBRI; Graphic: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

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