With greater cultural transparency on behavioral health, stigma around seeking treatment is diminishing. However, a concerning number of consumers report their behavioral health has deteriorated. This seems to defy concerted efforts.
Behavioral health disconnect
A concerning decline in behavioral health
The term "behavioral health" refers to mental health, resilience and well-being. It includes the treatment of mental and substance use disorders; and support for those experiencing and/or recovering from these conditions, along with their families and communities.*
Plan sponsors are acutely aware of the vital role behavioral health plays in overall well-being, but they are continuing to align on the resources to best support consumers' ongoing behavioral health needs.
*Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). “SAMHSA – Behavioral Health Integration.” Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
of consumers say that their mental health declined over the past year.
Efforts to invest in behavioral health
For plan sponsors, behavioral health represents as area of near-term investment and a cost driver, albeit to varying degrees. Health plan leaders continue to prioritize behavioral health offerings and solutions, but they will need to calibrate that investment with consumers' changing needs in the years ahead.
Plan sponsor’s anticipated organizational investments over the next two to three years
Overestimating consumer satisfaction
Both employers and health plan leaders appear to be overestimating consumers’ degree of satisfaction with behavioral health support and benefits. At the same time, roughly three-quarters of plan sponsors express concern that those same consumers are not fully utilizing the benefits available to them.
Perception of consumer satisfaction with behavioral health:
Actual reported satisfaction with behavioral health:
Generational perspectives on behavioral health
No age group is quite as engaged in their mental health as Gen Z, but almost two-thirds of Gen Z respondents seem to be struggling and said their mental health has declined. That number drops with age for Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomer respondents. This finding may owe in part to older respondents being relatively settled in their careers, finances and relationships with fewer uncertainties compared to the younger groups.
Consumers who strongly or somewhat agree their mental health has declined over the past 12 months.
GEN Z (18-24)
GEN X (41-56)
BABY BOOMERS (57-75)
The need for support among younger consumers
Compared to other age groups, children and adolescents had seven times the rate of increase in suicide ideation (21% to 3%) and six times the rate of increase in suicide attempts (26% to 4%) from 2020 to 2021.*
While younger consumers are actively engaged in improving their emotional well-being, they continue to struggle. As plan sponsors evaluate their investment in behavioral health for the coming years, they may wish to devote additional resources to address the specific circumstances and vulnerabilities of every employee age segment.
*Nemecek, Douglas. (2023, February 8). “American Youth Increasingly at Risk of Suicide.” https://www.evernorth.com/articles/youth-suicide-prevention-understanding-key-factors
It will be important for plan sponsors to address consumers’ changing needs.
however, they are much more likely than older consumers to report challenges.
plan sponsors may wish to consider age-specific outreach and education efforts.
“Timely intervention is critical to behavioral health care."
"So we’re working to improve access for our members with investments in data-driven identification models, real-time outreach to members who need help, and expansion of our behavioral network to quickly meet the needs of each person.”
President, Evernorth Behavioral Health
The disruption and fragmentation that have characterized health care over the past year are clearly reflected in the perspectives of both consumers and plan sponsors. Their sentiments suggest a rich opportunity to provide a more cohesive care journey, as well as a higher standard of health care benefits delivery.
These insights power innovative thinking—which, in turn, allows us to improve efficiency, accessibility and predictability. We’re creating connections to care that pave the way to better health for communities, for businesses—for all.
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