Economic benefits for investing in mental health


Part 2 event insights from an FSC and KMPG mental health session 


By Prue Roberts

The Financial Services Council partnered with KPMG and Mental Health Australia for a members-only event in late October to discuss the ‘Investing to save’ report, a research piece that outlines a number of economic benefits for the investment in mental health reform.

This is the Part 2 blog.

Increase employment maintenance opportunities 

A key recommendation in the report relates to supporting individuals with mental health issues to gain and maintain employment. And to gain and maintain their mental health and wellbeing in the workplace itself. At work, people with mental health, or ill health, are more likely to be absent from work and less productive when they are at work.

Jane Dorter commented that, “In turn, the influence of mental health on Australia’s workforce participation rate, is such, that realistic improvements in mental health rates could improve workforce participation rates by 30%.”

Drawing on the report’s findings in connection with the audience, she outlined how the insurance sector can play a role in bettering an individual’s employment maintenance, “We all understand in the insurance industry, the importance of the individual’s employment. How critical it is to identity, how critical it is to people’s status in the community, in society, and how important it is for economic and financial security.”

Andrew Dempster mentioned that there is currently a unique opportunity to shift the mental health agenda focus and get some genuine systems and thinking involved when it comes to employment maintenance – with everyone working together, “I think the insurance industry should be a significant player in that discussion and debate. Not only from a claims and health data perspective, knowing the return to work space, but also with a focus on shifting the ability for insurers to be involved and become involved earlier on with the opportunities around prevention and early intervention to avoid downstream economic costs that we all know are so significant.”

He added that times are challenging with the evolution of the modern work environment, knowledge economy, agile workplaces and the like, but that this also presents opportunity. “There’s actually really big unknowns on the impact of presenteeism – it’s not a well-measured area, nor an area of focus. Perhaps we can change this together in future.”


Increase predictive data opportunities 

The event wrapped-up with some insights from Richard Yee, KPMG Practice Leader of General Insurance Actuarial, about the efforts in New Zealand around the country’s integrated data infrastructure that is providing their economy with some significant and monitorable insights.

“All the data flows into one source, from the justice system to the health and education systems – there is a whole lifetime of information that can be looked at for individuals.

“The beauty of this is being able to predict classifications of mental health across 100,000’s of people who can be tracked overtime in longitudinal studies. Being able to look at the benefits of early intervention, for instance, by looking at the Government’s savings on welfare payments at certain points. There are many valuable pieces of information that can be used to manage issues of interest, like mental health.”

With Australia’s state and federal legislations proving challenging in this space, the collection of mental health data is going to need to be on the onus of individual organisations to start to be more proactive about. With the FSC and KPMG working together on the collection of claims data in the life insurance sector, collaboration is well and truly on the agenda for many in the industry – and it’s an important time for all to be involved.

As Chris Schilling stated, “You don’t get economic returns unless the human cost is really high, and the ROI in this case is so significant only because mental illness is such a debilitating disease across a life course.”