According to Mental Health Index: Elevated Risk of PTSD Continues; Adversely Impacts Employee Stress Levels, Resilience and Cognition

Experts: now more than ever empathetic leadership critical to happy, committed, productive workforce

SAN FRANCISCO and WASHINGTON, July 15, 2021 — As pandemic life gives way to a new normal, employees are searching for more flexibility, less stress and more happiness. Experts warn that leading with empathy will be more critical than ever when it comes to employee recruitment and retention efforts. According to the Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, elevated risk of pandemic-fueled PTSD (up 56% when compared to pre-COVID-19) continues; driving stress levels up and adversely impacting employee resilience and cognition.



For employees suffering from PTSD, the workplace is not a pleasant or productive environment. When compared to employees without PTSD risk, they demonstrate:


  • 24% 57% higher level of stress
  • 18% decrease in sustained attention
  • 11% lower level of resilience
  • 8% worse planning skills
  • 5% worse memory

The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition, powered by Total Brain, a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform, is distributed in partnership with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser CoalitionsOne Mind at Work, and the HR Policy Association and its American Health Policy Institute.


“Empathetic leadership is a recurring theme of our conversations with employers nationwide as they navigate the post-pandemic corporate terrain,” explained Louis Gagnon, CEO, Total Brain. “For many business executives there is a fear they will be less respected if they show empathy in the workplace. Yet, we know that empathy drives better business outcomes, from improved productivity to happier employees. Empathy is what employees need right now.”


Daryl Tol, executive vice president, One Mind at Work, went on to add, “Employers have a responsibility to their employees to develop and implement a gold standard for workplace mental health and well-being—to meet them where they are. By investing resources in workplace mental health, employers can lower disability, absenteeism and presenteeism, reduce total medical costs, increase recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction, increase productivity, and much more. We must put mental health, brain fitness and well-being in the workplace first.”


Colleen McHugh, executive vice president of the American Health Policy Institute and strategic advisor for HR Policy Association said, “This new data suggests that employees continue to struggle with mental health challenges, as a result of the COVID era, and that employers must remain focused on support. Large employers are ever-sensitive to employees’ needs, developing new mental and behavioral health benefits in addition to other forms of support as most workplaces transition back to an in-person environment.”


Not all news is bad


Despite sustained elevation of PTSD risk, the latest Mental Health Index shows most mental health metrics are getting better. This good news is driven in great part by notable improvements in the 20-39-year-old female cohort, whose social circles are likely larger than older employees. These young women may be benefiting from a lift in quarantine requirements. Most notably, when compared to May 2021:


  • Stress dropped 25%
  • Anxiety dropped 44%
  • Depressed mood dropped 43
  • Conscious negativity bias dropped 20%


According to Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, “With the reopening of society, the return to a more normal environment is bringing welcome relief to the emotional wellbeing of many American workers. However, navigating the return to the workplace for some may take time and some tempering of expectations on both sides.”


The full Mental Health Index results can be found here. For more information and additional insights there will be a complimentary 30-minute webinar on Friday, March 19 at 12 p.m. EST. Register here:


For more information, Encouraging Empathy helps employers understand the science of empathy and how to cultivate it in the workplace. Mental Health in the COVID-19 Era: A Year in Review provides a month-by-month overview of the Mental Health Index data juxtaposed against the state of COVID-19 in the U.S. and around the world. Back to Work: How to Prepare for Five Mental Health Challenges Facing Returning Workers offers keen insights for employers in the process of opening long-shuttered doors.


Methodology: The Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition contains data drawn from a weekly randomized sample of 500 working Americans taken from a larger universe of Total Brain users. The Index is NOT a survey or a poll. Data is culled from neuroscientific brain assessments using standardized digital tasks and questions from the Total Brain platform. Participants include workers from all walks of life and regions, job levels, occupations, industries, and types of organizations (public vs. private). The brain assessments used to compile the Mental Health Index were taken weekly from January 18 to March 31, 2021.


About Total Brain: Total Brain is based in San Francisco and publicly listed in Sydney, AUS (ASX:TTB). Total Brain is a mental health and brain performance self-monitoring and self-care platform that has 1M registered users. Benefits for employers and payers include better mental healthcare access, lower costs and higher productivity.


About the National Alliance: The National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (National Alliance) is the only nonprofit, purchaser-led organization with a national and regional structure dedicated to driving health and healthcare value across the country. Its members represent private and public sector, nonprofit, and Taft-Hartley organizations, and more than 45 million Americans spending over $300 billion annually on healthcare.


About One Mind: One Mind at Work Launched in 2017, One Mind at Work is a global coalition of leaders from diverse sectors who have joined together with the goal of transforming approaches to mental health and addiction. One Mind at Work now includes more than 90 global employers and 18 research and content partners. The coalition covers more than 8 million people under its charter.


HR Policy Association: HR Policy Association is the lead organization representing Chief Human Resource Officers at major employers. The Association consists of over 390 of the largest corporations doing business in the United States and globally, and these employers are represented in the organization by their most senior human resource executive. Collectively, their companies employ more than 10 million employees in the United States, over nine percent of the private sector workforce, and 20 million employees worldwide. These senior corporate officers participate in the Association because of their commitment to improving the direction of human resource policy.


American Health Policy Institute: American Health Policy Institute is a non-partisan non-profit think tank, started by the HR Policy Foundation, that examines the practical implications of health policy changes through the lens of large employers. The Institute examines the challenges employers face in providing health care to their employees and recommends policy solutions to promote the provision of affordable, high-quality, employer-based health care. The Institute serves to provide thought leadership grounded in the practical experience of America’s largest employers. Their mission is to develop impactful strategies to ensure that those purchasing health care are able to not only bend the cost curve, but actually break it, by keeping health care cost inflation in line with general inflation.


Media Contact:
Kelly Faville
Rocket Social Impact

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