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Your Mental Health Is Affecting The Economy. Please Go Home

Your Mental Health Is Affecting The Economy. Please Go Home

The dire state of Malaysia’s declining mental health has been written about many, many, many times.

At least 30% of Malaysians suffer from anxiety and depression with 53% of working Malaysians experiencing high work-related stress, and one in five employees reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Back in 2018, Malaysian Psychiatric Association (MPA) made a chilling prediction that depression will be a major mental health illness among Malaysians by 2020 as they’ve witnessed a steady increase in numbers over the years.

(Credit: RELATE)

So we know it’s a big problem, but honestly how many employers in Malaysia genuinely care? Taking a medical leave (or medical certificate/MC) for a physical illness is hard enough, let alone one for the stigma-riddled conditions of mental illnesses.

Well, here’s a good reason for your boss to care about your mental health: Money.


A study titled “Workplace mental health – The business costs” by Relate Mental Health Malaysia (RELATE) estimates that mental health conditions among employees may be costing the country RM14.46 billion a year.

This staggering amount accounts for over 1% of Malaysia’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

RELATE even broke it down to how much this issue costs private and public organisations.

Components of health and economic costs of mental health conditions.
(Credit: RELATE)

There’s a bill of RM123 million for Petronas and RM13 million for Nestle. As for the civil service, it’s estimated to cost around RM2.03 billion.

These costs are broken down into as staff absenteeism, presenteeism (attending work despite being sick) and turnover – which is around RM946 per worker or 3.78% of a medium -sized company’s annual gross output.

Here’s the surprising thing though, it turns out that the cost of presenteeism is three times higher than sickness absenteeism.

Employees showing up to work despite being mentally ill wind up costing the company millions.
(Credit: jcomp/Freepik)

The study estimates that the total cost of presenteeism due to mental health issues is RM9.84 billion, or 0.68% of Malaysia’s GDP in 2018!

Despite Malaysia having a seriously dangerous admiration for those who work themselves to the bone, RELATE points out that continually working despite being ill leads to decreased job satisfaction, lower mental and physical health, and lower levels of job performance and productivity.

In fact, mental health conditions are among the top contributors to productivity loss, surpassing physical illnesses such as obesity or heart disease.

Estimated cost of mental health issues to estimated total workforce in 2018.
(Credit: RELATE)

The funny thing is that employers are actually aware of this.

The study shows that 68% of leaders believe their employees’ health and well-being affect the organisations’ success.

However, only 13% of employees are aware of any well-being interventions.

What this means is that while employers understand the value of health and mental well-being, there’s no concrete action taken to address this issue.

Several reasons can be attributed to this, but the main one is the unfortunate belief that employees are faking illness due to laziness.

It also doesn’t help that poor mental health is not viewed as a legitimate reason for taking time off work.

Created via Imgflip

So while the nation continues to battle the stigma of mental health issues, at the very least there’s tangible proof of its very expensive cost.

However, it’s also important to get the right treatment for your mental health issues. Check out TRP’s complete guide to counselling and mental health therapy services in Klang Valley HERE.

Go ahead, show this article to your boss for that much needed time off.

If you’re having problems or suicidal thoughts and need immediate assistance, reach out to Befrienders at:

TEL: 603-79568145

Available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Calls from 8 local telcos are FREE.

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