Here at ESI we just completed our January statistics and, I noticed a big jump in utilization. That means that more people called us for help in January than most other months. So I did a bit of research to see if this is unique to our EAP or if it happens elsewhere. Everyone thinks of the holiday season as the most stressful time of the year but checking around, I found something different.

Dr. Cliff Arnall a psychologist from London devised a formula that calculates misery and found that in the UK, January 24th is the most depressing day of the year. Could this be the same in the US? He proposes that it’s a combination of seven variables: weather, debt, monthly salary, time since Christmas, time since failed quit attempt (as in an attempt to quit smoking, drinking, eating poorly), low motivational levels and the need to take action. He states that the stress and struggle of all these variables culminate in the middle of January.

And how does that relate to the EAP? Depression and financial worries are two of the most common reasons employees call us. A Canadian based research firm recently conducted a study about the use of EAPs after the holiday season and found the following:

Post Holidays and the Broken Promise Effect—an EAP’s Perspective, indicated that reports of mental health problems increased in January. Suicidal thoughts increased by twenty seven percent, feelings of anger augmented to fourteen percent, and depression increased by seven percent this January.

This research project examined Employee Assistance Program (EAP) access patterns for the month of January of 138,933 employees in 806 organizations.
The key findings of the report show that:

  • There are 15% more EAP contacts in January compared to the rest of the year (51% more than December alone).
  • January is associated with more reports of domestic violence (55% more) and other social health issues involving care giving (42% to 50% more), marriage and relationships (10% to 42% more), and family (14% to 37% more).
  • Reports of mental health problems also rise in January, including suicidal thoughts and feelings (27% more) anger (12% more) and depression (7% more).
  • Reports of physical health problems such as medical stressors (13% more) and weight management (10% more) rise in January.
  • Other January increases were found for reports of debt and credit (39% more), career (28% more), and life transition issues (15% more)

So I guess the message here is pretty clear. All these personal concerns are influencing the ability of your employees to do their work and this affects co-workers and the organization as a whole. If you don’t have an EAP, consider contracting with one now, and choose one that offers the most comprehensive benefits to your employees.

If you do have an EAP, it’s time to make sure you are promoting it to all your employees. Many organizations make the mistake of promoting the benefit only at open enrollment time or only to new employees at orientation. Unless promotional material such as posters, newsletters and brochures are readily available, employees forget they have this option when times get tough. Include your EAP resource in an ongoing conversation with employees and managers and help solve these problems today.


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