World Mental Health Day

Faye Turner

17 min Read Time | October 10th 2021

10 Companies and their impact on Mental Health

The 10th of October marked World Mental Health Day, a day to encourage open conversation about mental health and spread education and awareness about mental health issues all over the world.

With a global pandemic effecting the lives of millions for the past 18 months, mental health has never been more important nor has it been more impacted. That is why it is essential that we continuously observe, assess and hold accountable the large companies that have an impact on the mental health of millions. Whether it be through the technology we interact with, such as social media, the clothing we wear, the services we use or even by being employed by said companies - their impact is far-reaching and often profound.

As part of World Mental Health Day we’ve picked extracts from 10 articles that have a focus on the impact businesses have had on mental health. Some of the articles you’ll read have a positive impact on the world with initiatives and products helping to improve mental health, others look at concerning issues that need to be addressed by the company in question.


1. "Alphabet Inc. settles the cases of sexual misconduct for the amount of $310 million."

"Sexual harassment at the workplace can trigger numerous mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder1. Workplace sexual harassment is barely reported2. Around 5 million (Mn) people in the U.S. experienced workplace sexual harassment yearly, and only 9,200 filed a charge2.

Alphabet Inc. is the parent company of Google which is ranked at 5th position globally, based on a market cap of USD1.4 Tn4.

(...) In January 2019, Alphabet’s (shareholders Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund and Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan filed a suit in California’s Santa Clara County Superior Court5,6. The plaintiff stated that Alphabet’s leadership made misguided decisions for the sexual misconduct issues that affected the share price and the company’s image6. It is stated that the company’s “brogrammer” and concealment culture led to the wasteful exit packages payment worth millions to its executives alleged of misconduct5. The suit stated that 48 cases of sexual harassment, including 13 cases against senior managers or executives, had been filed in the previous 2 years5.

In September 2020, Alphabet agreed to commit $310 Mn to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives as part of a settlement for sexual harassment and misconduct lawsuits filed against the company’s officers and executives5."

Writer: Harsh SHARMA
Company Impact: Alphabet

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2. "Takeda impacted 169,803 health workers and 111,000 patients through its health education initiatives."

"A 2021 statistics showed that around 9.7% of people in the U.S. suffer from major depressive disorder (MDD), a 0.5% rise from 2020 (9.2%)1. MDD is a prolonged feeling of sadness, irritability, and emptiness that causes the affected persons to perform poorly at work, at school, and in the family2. Depression also increases the chance of having major chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertension3.

(…) Takeda provided educational grants to Medscape Education6; an online learning platform that is still ongoing to train health care providers and patients about MDD8. This program comprises 20 continuing medical education (CME) - certified educational activities6. More than 166,000 healthcare providers and 41,000 patients benefited and were impacted by this educational program in the US6. In 2019, The program was awarded as the most valuable HCP Initiative in North America6."

Writer: Mercy

Company Impact: Takeda Pharmaceutical

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3. "In 2020, Medibank paid out $190 million in claims for mental-health-related hospitalizations."

"According to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1 in every 5 Australians suffers from a mental illness.

(...) In 2020, Medibank allocated over $9.5M to health and medical research to respond to the needs of Australians with mental health issues4;p30. Of this 63.1% or $5M was donated to Beyond Blue5 for mental health related initiatives4;p30. A partnership with Accenture and Beyond Blue led to the implementation of a custom-made digital support site for mental health related issues6;p3. $10M government funding plus $5M from Medibank4;p30 enabled Beyond Blue to provide appropriate information, counselling, and recommendations to people in need free of cost through the site that had ~600,000 visits at the time of the report6;p5. The same year, the company provided almost 68,000 psychological services to customers, in person and via telehealth7"

Writer: sensus

Company Impact: Medibank Private

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4. "Facebook's screen time is detrimental to users' mental health."

"There are 4.48 billion social media users globally, representing 57% of the global population1. Despite the popularity of social media platforms, research suggests that social media usage is linked with depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm2. People are forced to compare their lives with others, and this can cause depression and anxiety2. The increased screen time on social media is also linked with lower self-esteem, lack of quality sleep, and a negative impact on physical fitness3.

There is ample research showing that Facebook can be detrimental to one’s mental health. Yet, the company has failed to take any major steps to control the users’ screen time."

Writer: Meenakshi NARAYANAN
Company Impact: Facebook

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5. "Disney entertains, de-stresses, & cultivates prosocial behaviours in its 314M channel subscribers."

"The $2.2 trillion global entertainment industry allows people to socialize, relax, have fun, de-stress, and live higher-quality lives1.

(…) Disney film and TV content reach children and families across 133 countries8. Disney shapes and influences our beliefs, values, and morals both in childhood and adulthood as its films are “rich in prosocial behaviors such as sharing, helping others, offering compliments or encouragement9.” Studies reveal the mental health benefits of watching Disney, like reduced anxiety, fatigue, and depression10. Disney viewers feel optimistic, less tired, thus improving their quality of life10."

Writer: heet.ghodasara
Company Impact: Walt Disney

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6. "Amazon toxic work-culture systematically undermines the physical and mental health of its workers."

"A study reveals that a large proportion of the global workforce is dissatisfied with their work life1. Only 15% of the worldwide workforce is happily engaged in their workplaces1. About 62% of the workforce is unhappy with their work, and 23% are extremely unhappy with their work1. More than half of the US and UK’s workforce is dissatisfied with their jobs2,3.

(…) In 2018, an undercover investigation in UK warehouses of Amazon revealed that 55% of the workers have suffered from depression since they started working at the company6. About 74% of them fear taking a bathroom break as they are warned against missing their targets6.

A 2019 report revealed the toxicity brewing in Amazon’s warehouses7. Between 2013 to 2018, Amazon warehouses workers in the US have made 189 emergency calls across 46 sites for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes7."

Writer: Meenakshi NARAYANAN

Company Impact: Amazon

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7. "Asics has supported +50,000 vulnerable kids with sporting goods and safe spaces to play."

"Physical activity has many benefits on children, such as it betters performance in school and decreases depression, lowering the risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, among others1. It's been long understood that children's participation in sports is beneficial for them, but social inequity exists in sports too, as children from families with low socioeconomic positions have less access and means to participate in sports2.

(...) The company engages with the communities where its factories and facilities are located by making monetary contributions and in-kind donations; in 2020, it donated the equivalent to $673,262, aiding kids at public schools in Lebanon to play sports8 5,6. It has partnered with the NGO Right to play since 2018, supporting Syrian refugee children and their families, reaching +7,000 beneficiaries7;p13. With the program, they offer the kids and families the opportunity to have fun and develop life skills by playing sports guided by volunteers; the company funded the activities by making monetary and in-kind (Asics' products) donations8;p33.

In Japan, Asics support communities in disaster-stricken areas since 2011, with its Tomorrow project7;p13. In the affected communities, children have low opportunities to engage with sports and lack facilities; Asics held events with coaches and athletes, that help children to get involved in sports, supplying them with sporting goods. Since 2011, it has reached 44,000 children7;p13."

Writer: Claudia MUCIÑO
Company Impact: Asics

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8. "H&M develops confidence and self-expression among millennials through its products and programs."

"A critical factor that influences one’s individualism is self-expression through outfit choice (fabric, pattern, colour, etc.)1. Adam and Galinsky have evidenced that fashion and style affect one’s confidence and image through “enclothed cognition”2,3. In a University of Hertfordshire study, 96% of participants believed what they wear affected how confident they feel4. Confidence ultimately improves self-esteem, which neurobiological experts prove to deter anxiety, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in work, sport, and school settings5,6.

In 2021, H&M launched the ready-to-wear suit initiative where the company rents free suits for a 24 hour period, mainly for men attending job interviews13. This initiative helps job seekers boost their confidence and create a powerful first impression during job interviews13. Further, H&M’s advertising campaigns include models of different ethnic and cultural diversities, promoting an inclusivity society11.

H&M makes luxury fashion accessible and affordable to the general public with its innovative collaboration strategies."

Writer: Benazir THANVEER
Company Impact: Hennes & Mauritz

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9. "ITV Love Island's lack of body diversity is detrimental to viewers' mental health."

"Most media portrays unrealistic, unrepresentative, digitally-altered, or difficult-to-achieve bodies (extremely thin women and muscular men) as ideal, natural and desirable, while larger bodies are shown as comical and unattractive1,6. This is linked to depression, eating disorders, lower self-esteem and drug use among youth1,6. In the UK, about 20% of adults (and over 30% of teenagers) felt shame or disgust due to their body image, 35% felt anxious or depressed, 13% felt suicidal, and 15% deliberately hurt themselves in 20202. Over 20% of adults and 40% of teenagers worry about body image due to social media, reality TV and advertising2.

(…) The show's lack of body diversity and portrayal of only one type of beauty and idealized perfection has garnered criticism and concern for years4,5. Yet, producers claim they must cast contestants with a similar, slim physique, as they would otherwise not be attracted to each other, reinforcing the idea that people with larger bodies are unattractive or unworthy of love4,5.

Further, ITV airs several cosmetic surgery advertisements during episode breaks, "exploiting young women's insecurities" and "trivialising breast enhancement surgery"4. This has been ruled as irresponsible and harmful by the Advertising Standards Authority, which received 17 such complaints in 20204. Other show-time ads were from fashion, cosmetic and fast-food companies3."

Writer: Ananya MAHAPATRA
Company Impact: ITV

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10. "Roche’s drug, Roaccutane, has been reported to have severe side-effects of depression & self-harm."

"Globally, over 35 Mn people suffer from drug use disorders1. Adverse Drug Events (ADEs) are injuries caused due to medication use2. Globally, 19% of all injuries experienced by hospitalized patients are accounted for by ADEs2. ADEs increase morbidity, mortality, prolonged hospitalizations, and costs of treatment2.

In the UK, nearly 30,000 people annually use Roaccutane (also known as Accutane), the brand name for drug isotretinoin4. Some of the common side effects of Roaccutane are dry skin, chapped lips, vision issues, and joint pains while severe effects include birth defects, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD), mental health issues, and ulcerative colitis5.

Roaccutane’s patient information leaflet warns about depression, suicidal thoughts, and psychiatric side-effects4. According to the leaflets, 1 in 1,000 people could have depression and associated issues, while 1 in 10,000 could risk self-harm or suicide7. More recently, it was amended to add risks of lower libido and erectile dysfunction4. Yet, this drug is widely prescribed, with 48,997 prescriptions in 20167.

While it’s true that the majority of the 7,000 Roaccutane lawsuits against Roche have been dismissed (for various side-effects)6, the increasing reports have caused MHRA to continuously review and reopen inquiries regarding its safety and usage4."

Writer: Sandhyani.Borah
Company Impact: Roche

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How to learn more about the impact of business...

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This collection of knowledge is what gives us the Company Impact Score. This impact score tells us the environmental and social value of a company and their overall impact on the world. Learn more about our impact scores and what we do here.

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