Employees Overwhelmingly Want Mental Health Benefits But Impact Still Unclear

Employer mental health companies have flooded the behavioral health startup market. This comes as employees now say behavioral health benefit programs are crucial for establishing positive workplace environments. 

Conflicting research, however, makes it unclear how effective these plans are in practice.

Further, with the market for employer mental health plans becoming increasingly saturated, only the most comprehensive options may be competitive enough to win employer contracts going forward.


More than 90% of American workers say that employer-sponsored mental health coverage is, or would be, important for workplace culture, according to a new poll from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Conducted in January of 2024, the poll focused on full-time workers employed at companies with at least 100 employees.

“This poll shows that, without a doubt, today’s workforce wants their employers to care about their mental health – by talking about it, giving training on it, and providing support for it,” Daniel H. Gillison Jr., NAMI CEO, said in a statement.  


Employers with access to employer-sponsored mental health coverage were also more likely to feel comfortable sharing about their own mental health at work, a difference of 15% compared to employees without the coverage.

Investing in health and wellbeing companies may also save employers money.

A new analysis by health and wellbeing company Vitality found that five of its partner employers saved an average of $462 in annual medical claims costs per engaged member, translating to total direct savings of $39.8 million. 

The analysis determined that, when taking into consideration all program and incentive costs, employers experienced a 180% return on investment from direct claims savings.

At odds with Vitality’s findings is an independent study that found that employee wellness initiatives led to no reliable difference in mental wellbeing. The research found volunteering was the only type of intervention that actually impacted workers’ wellbeing. 

“The results in this article pose a challenge to the popularity and legitimacy of individual-level mental wellbeing interventions like mindfulness, resilience and stress management, relaxation classes and wellbeing apps,” the study’s authors wrote.

Regardless of efficacy, employer mental wellbeing programs are becoming an increasingly saturated market, which may make it more difficult for point solutions to clinch contracts with employers.

“Employers are getting pinged a lot by these focused solutions,” Katherine Hobbs, CEO of Author Health and former Optum executive, said at BHB’s VALUE 2022. “They don’t have the same understanding of the behavioral health system and the population, as we all do. And so it’s hard for them to sort through. … Employers also need this more comprehensive approach to managing their population.”

The flooding of point solutions means employers will quickly move on from one EAP company to the next if there is insufficient ROI.

“With the labor market being so tight [the last few years], there was a lot of emphasis on bringing in benefits that made employers competitive,” Candace Richardson, a principal at General Catalyst, previously told BHB

“There are a lot of nice-to-have retention-focused benefits,” Richardson continued. “But as companies are reviewing their budgets and making really challenging decisions around reducing headcount, part of that process that CFOs are going through is figuring out how we are spending on benefits. And are we getting an ROI that we need to see?”

Employer mental health companies may now battle to see which can be the most comprehensive and most clearly demonstrate compelling evidence of ROI.

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