We research: Working towards treating mental health disorders using data analytics and artificial intelligence

3.11.2023Minna Kahala, Henna KyhäWe research

Mental health reasons have become the most common cause of disability retirement, alongside musculoskeletal disorders. Disability pensions for mental health reasons have increased in recent years, particularly among young people. People often retire younger than average for mental health reasons and they are also less likely to return to work compared to people with other illnesses.

Illustrative image / Pexels.
Illustrative image / Pexels.

Mental disorders are characterized by the fact that they develop over a long period of time. Little research has been done in Finland on the predictability and onset of mental disorders. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has conducted pioneering research by developing a predictive approach using machine learning that addresses workers’ mental disorders and the associated treatment pathways. The study has created a risk map of the development of mental health problems among workers that provides individualized predictions of the likely consequences of mental health symptoms, such as recurrent sickness absence.

The Research Center for Human Functioning is now taking its first steps in this direction as well by carrying out a preliminary study, funded by the Huittisten Säästöpankkisäätiö, which will provide information on the predictors of mental health disorders. The preliminary study will map the data available for predicting the emergence of mental health disorders and explore whether this data can be utilized and analyzed using data analytics and artificial intelligence.

The preliminary study is part of a broader project idea to use data-driven research to identify risk factors for mental health disorders. Data analytics and artificial intelligence will be used to identify factors that predict the onset of mental health disorders. The goal is to create tools and increase knowledge on early identification and prevention of mental disorders to support patient care.

Mental health issues are also relevant in the context of workforce challenges. The competition for skilled workers is intense, and it is expected to remain so in the coming years. Employers need to invest in making optimal use of the existing workforce. This means maintaining both the skills and functioning of the workers.

Did you know?

  • In 2021, pensions based on mental health accounted for 33%, and pensions based on musculoskeletal disorders for 31%. In addition to disability pensions, mental health problems are relatively the biggest cause of sickness absence days, and their share has also been increasing.
  • Work disability comes at a very high cost, both to the economy and to the individual. The OECD report estimates the cost of mental disorders in Finland at 11 billion euros per year.
  • Data analytics can identify the currently hidden factors and combinations of factors that predict the onset of mental disorders. The interpretation of these factors which include many interdependent, implicit and hidden links is beyond the reach of human ability.
  • This preliminary study and the research project itself will provide a new way of investigating which physical and psychosocial factors predict the onset of mental disorders and, in turn, recovery from them.

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