Aviva has launched a new mental health option enabling large companies and organisations in the UK to support employees with all addictions, including online gambling, gaming and social media.
Mental Health Pathways Plus extends Aviva’s corporate mental health cover, introduced last year, and is available through its Optimum private medical insurance scheme for companies with 250+ employees.
Among the options is cover for any addictive condition, which Aviva says is a response to growing evidence that smartphone use enabling easy, round-the-clock access to online gambling, gaming and social media is leading to new addictive behaviour. 
Drug and alcohol addiction are also included, with research showing that alcohol abuse is costing UK businesses £6.4billion a year in lost productivity. 
Dr Doug Wright, Medical Director of Aviva, said: “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.
“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.”
Children aged 13 and over and covered by their parent’s policy can access mental health support services too, which comes amid rising concern about the impact of social media on the self-image of young people and easy access to mobile gaming apps.
NHS England will open its first gambling clinic for children and young people aged 13-25 this summer to tackle what it says is growing problem because of online gaming sites.
Mental Health Pathways Plus has also removed clauses governing some chronic mental health conditions to improve assessment, monitoring and treatment for individuals with long-term mental illnesses.
The service focuses on helping to keep employees in the workplace where possible. And, when they are off work, offer them support to return sooner. It provides access to a network of 2,200 clinicians without the need for GP referral, and assessment with a mental health practitioner within 48 hours.
A range of treatment options includes online cognitive behavioural therapy, remote sessions by phone or video link, face-to-face therapies and in-patient treatment where clinically necessary.
 Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England (UK Government, Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit).
Notes to editors:
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