External effects and impacts: 

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  • Lost productivity due to perinatal depression will cost Australian workplaces $310.34M, with costs substantially higher for men than for women.
  • Government and private direct health care costs of $78.66M (including primary care, psychiatrist and allied health services, medications, hospital, and community mental health services).
  • Costs to the wider community of $44.53M resulting from direct expenditure on health services for people with perinatal depression and forgone taxation revenue due to lost earnings.

Impact of perinatal anxiety and depression on the Australian economy:

The report clearly outlines the impact of perinatal anxiety and depression on the Australian economy. “These figures show in black and white that perinatal anxiety and depression is a far reaching and costly issue in our community. It is affecting government, business, the health system, whole families as well as mothers, fathers and children.  It impacts directly on worker productivity, family financial stability, community wellbeing and quality of life,” (PANDA).
A key finding of the research is that lost productivity due to perinatal anxiety and depression will conservatively cost Australian businesses more than $310M.

The total amount is likely to be even higher as the productivity and forgone revenue of informal care provided by partners, families and friends could not be calculated due to the lack of available data.  Surprisingly, lost productivity from perinatal anxiety and depression is significantly higher for men with a diagnosis of antenatal and postnatal depression than for women due to higher average earnings for men and time out of the workforce for women after birth.
While the lost productivity costs of men supporting partners diagnosed with perinatal anxiety and depression could not be calculated, we know that fathers are under enormous stress in keeping their families together as shown by the experience of Simon, a father of two…

Speaking from experience – a dad’s story:

Simon took a significant time off work to care for his family when his wife was diagnosed with postnatal depression. “I had many days when I’d get a phone call from my wife crying so hard she couldn’t speak and I just had to cancel meetings, drop everything at work and come home. And once she was admitted to hospital I had to take carers leave to look after our son until he could join her in a mother baby unit. “It was terrifying watching my wife fall apart. Trying to understand it whilst worrying about Anna, working and keeping the day to day running of the household going was an incredibly difficult time. Work dropped down my list of priorities and my productivity went down significantly. It was emotionally and physically draining and I was really lucky in having an understanding employer and colleagues,” Simon said.

Warning signs for Employers and how you can help.

PANDA is urging employers to watch all new mothers and fathers returning to work and proactively offer assistance and flexibility where required.

Warning signs to watch out for could include patterns of absenteeism as well as a lack of engagement and productivity at work. This may occur particularly in new fathers who may not reach out for assistance. This can indicate a short-term need for additional workplace flexibility and support until his partner is more able to manage.  Ideally the new father would be able to seek this assistance from his employer but this remains a difficult conversation in many workplaces.
As more fathers express a desire to be more involved in their families, companies are recognizing that flexible work hours and work-at-home options are core retention issues, and a trend is emerging to show that those companies who offer flexible work/life conditions are the ones that attract and retain the best talent.
Family related stress and work related stress, or the stress from the lack of being able to find employment all contribute to a father’s need for stress-management strategies and support.