Benefits Strategy

Employee Wellness

Trend 3: Mental Health Is Not Equal for Diverse Employees

How employers can improve the mental health of neurodivergent, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ employees

Hispanic woman sitting at a desk in an office

The Calm Team

7 min read

Over the past 20 years, employers have steadily evolved their workforce diversity efforts to fuel innovation and growth. They’ve learned that reaping the productivity benefits of diverse perspectives requires more than simply hiring diverse employees—it requires helping them thrive. 

Diversity initiatives have expanded beyond recruiting to focus on building inclusive and equitable workplaces and fostering cultures in which every employee feels they belong. More recently, in response to glaring health inequities and growing social and racial injustice, employers have started to acknowledge the massive toll of external events on employee health. They’re now looking at their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts through the lens of workforce mental health. 

Efforts to align DEIB and mental health must continue to expand, however. Our 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report suggests that employers wanting to build a thriving workforce need to broaden their view of diverse and marginalized populations and do more to improve their mental health and well-being.

People who experience repeated discrimination over time—whether exclusion or microaggressions at work, bullying, or even violence—are at significantly higher risk of short- and long-term mental health challenges, including stress, anxiety, depression, and substance-use disorders. Chronic mistreatment also can impair cognitive functioning

To help employers gain insight into diverse employee populations and how they can better support their needs, here are key findings from our research report, 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report: The Future of Work.

1. Neurodivergent employees have unique mental health challenges  

“I have come to understand that I am not broken, I am just different. That I can be the same woman that was class valedictorian, had her first business at the age of 21, and is working for one of the best tech companies in the world… but also can’t tie her shoes, can’t distinguish left from right, and has a panic attack if things don’t go as expected.

We still need diverse autistic representation in the media, in research, in workplaces, to create a safe environment where no autistic individual will be overlooked and unsupported.” – LinkedIn post

Estimated to represent 15%–20% of the population, neurodivergent people have brains that work differently than those of average, or neurotypical, people. Dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and Tourette syndrome are examples of neurodivergent conditions.

Recognizing that neurodivergent people often possess exceptional cognitive capabilities, pioneering employers have enhanced their HR processes to bring more neurodiverse talent into their organizations. They’re often seeing improvements in productivity, quality, and innovation as a result.

Yet neurodivergent employees have greater mental health challenges than the US general population, according to our 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report

  • 58% of neurodivergent employees feel nervous, anxious, and stressed more than half the time or nearly all the time, whereas 42% of the general population does.
  • 47% of neurodivergent employees feel down, depressed, or hopeless; 33% of the US general population does.
  • 49% of neurodivergent employees have difficulty falling asleep; 39% of the US general population does.
    the percentage of people who have received medical benefits

More employers can follow the lead of pioneering companies to hire neurodivergent talent, but they also need to do more to address the elevated stress, anxiousness, and feelings of depression experienced by neurodivergent employees.

2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report

Get the latest insights on mental health benefits gaps in 2023 and the support employees want next.

Get the report
the workplace mental health trend report is shown

2. LGBTQ+ employees have greater mental health needs

The history of discrimination and stigma faced by the LGBTQ+ community, including lack of acceptance by family members, have historically led to higher rates of mental health challenges and substance use disorders among LGBTQ+ people. 

Recently, the pandemic and efforts across the country to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ people have taken an additional toll on their emotional well-being. Research shows that the pandemic disproportionately affected the mental health of LGBTQ+ people and had a greater negative impact on their sleep, appetite, and emotions as compared to non-LGBTQ+ people.

Consistent with public health research, Calm research reveals that LGBTQ+ employees are experiencing significantly higher rates of mental illness today than the general population. Our research found the following:

  • 60% of LGBTQ+ people feel nervous, anxious, and stressed more than half the time or nearly all the time; 42% of the general population does.
  • 50% of LGBTQ+ people feel down, depressed, or hopeless more than half the time or nearly all the time; 33% of the general population does.
  • 48% of LGBTQ+ employees have trouble falling asleep; 39% of the general population does.

Employers can do more to understand how the pandemic uniquely affected LGBTQ+ employees and the kind of support they need in a time of growing uncertainty regarding their rights.

three pies showing the percentage of employees who have worked on their health services

3. Hispanic employees have the most mental health needs

Calm research found that Hispanic people have the greatest mental health needs of all races and ethnicities. Here are a few examples:

  • 49% of Hispanic people feel nervous, anxious, and stressed more than half the time or nearly all the time, while 41% of Black people and 43% of white people do.
  • 43% of Hispanic people feel down, depressed, or hopeless more than half the time or nearly all the time; just 28% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders do.
  • Only 36% of Hispanic people feel supported by their manager when it comes to their mental health, while 43% of whites do.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Hispanic communities have the same risk of mental illness as the general population but face disparities in access to treatment and quality care. HR and benefits teams should take time to understand the unique mental health stigma in Hispanic and Latinx communities and how they can help break down this and other barriers to care.

4. What employers can do to better support diverse employees

Neurodivergent, LGBTQ+, and Hispanic employees say they want more preventive support for mental health. They wish employers would provide these benefits: 

  • Mental health support that aligns with their culture and identity
  • Access to self-care break rooms at work
  • Manager training regarding DEIB and mental health
  • Time during the day to care for their mental health
  • Mental health days off
  • Mental health tools to address stress, anxiousness, and sleep issues

Additionally, employers can support employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on mental health and DEIB and help them find ways to work together.

Above all, HR and benefits teams can actively listen to the specific needs of diverse populations and solicit feedback about how they can improve their employee experience.

To find out more workplace mental health trends and insights, download our 2023 Workplace Mental Health Trends Report

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