Alcohol abuse costs UK businesses £6.4bn per year in lost productivity according to research 

Aviva has launched a health insurance policy to cover workers who need treatment for internet-related disorders such as gambling and pornography addiction.

This also includes other addictions such as gaming and social media, as well as drug and alcohol addiction following research from the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England, which cited that alcohol abuse costs UK businesses £6.4bn a year in lost productivity.

The policy – Mental Health Pathways Plus, extends Aviva’s corporate mental health cover which was originally introduced last year for companies with over 250 employees.

Dr Doug Wright, medical director of Aviva, said: “We have responded by broadening our mental health cover to ensure businesses can opt to extend their support for employees affected by these emerging addictions.”

Aviva said that it is a response to growing evidence that smartphone use is leading to “round-the-clock” new addictive behaviour.

Huge impact

Wright added: “Addictions can have a huge impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing, and to their home and working life.

“While there’s no doubt that digital technology offers many benefits, it’s also driving behaviours which could increase people’s health risks. Previously, addictions have mainly been associated with drugs and alcohol, but now the internet and smartphone apps are leading to technology-driven addictions such as online gaming and sensation-seeking entertainment as well as preoccupation with social media.”

The policy has removed clauses governing some chronic mental health conditions to improve assessment, monitoring and treatment for individuals with long-term mental illnesses.

It focuses on helping to keep employees in the workplace where possible, but when they are off work, support will be offered to get them back to work sooner.

A network of 2,200 clinicians are also available. Treatment includes cognitive behavioural therapy as well as remote sessions by phone or video link.