Numerous studies have shown that major depression affects work productivity. Major depressive disorder (MDD) was fourth in line as the leading cause of disability across the world. It actually accounts for 4.5% of people considered disabled in the year 2000. The prevalence of MDD is on the rise and by 2020 predictions are that it will be second leading cause of disability. In total, mental disorders account for 15.4% of the total amount of lost productivity at work, which includes being absent from work as well as diminished productivity while at work.

The total economic cost of lost productive work time for employers in the U.S. is approximately $225.8 billion a year. Of this, 66% is due to diminished work due to employees dealing with personal health issues. Workers suffering from depression contributed to more lost productive work time than those not suffering from depression. The figures were 5.6 hours a week lost on account of depressed workers as opposed to 1.5 hours a week for workers without depression.

Studies show that 77.1% of people suffering from depression say that their depression affects work productivity over the prior two weeks. Compare this the fact that when the entire workforce sample were asked about lost work productivity, 9.4% report they indeed have lost productivity at work within the prior 2 weeks. Clearly depressed workers experience more lost productivity compared to all workers.  Depression occurring among U.S. workers costs employers about $44 billion per year in lost work productivity, as opposed to $31 billion per year due to workers who do not have depression. Another study revealed that depression affects work productivity because depressed employees had 8.7 days of missed work combined with 18.2 days of lost work productivity a year per person. This comes to an economic loss of $4,426 per employee per year.

An observational study was conducted on workers that spanned 18 months and this revealed that depressed patients who were going to their jobs and working had significantly more deficits in terms of their performance than the healthy subjects they were compared to. Even in patients whose depression had showed clinical improvement, their performance at work remained worse compared to the healthy employees. Depression affects work productivity over the course of time and detrimentally affect workplace performance. Survey participants that suffer from chronic depression and issues with work productivity are seven times more likely to report diminished effectiveness at work than workers without symptoms of depression.

Evidence shows that when depressed patients are effectively treated this can improve workplace performance. Patients who recover from depression have lower primary care healthcare costs and do not miss as many days of work due to illness. Depressed people who receive treatment from a mental health specialist, as compared to treatment from a non-specialist, were shown to have less loss of earnings due to illness and higher medical costs and overall there was lowering of economic costs. Other studies also found a link between less severe symptoms of chronic depression and enhanced workplace performance.

Employees in need of treatment for major depression are typically impaired occupationally.  Most clinicians see this occupational dysfunction as at least partly, if not wholly, due to depression and if the depression is effectively treated, the patient’s occupational impairments would likely improve. Even those who only partially respond to treatment are expected to improve in their occupational functioning. The fact that depression affects work productivity can be reversed by effective treatment.  This is shown by fewer hours being missed from work and better performance at their job. Sadly, this isn’t true for patients who do respond as expected to treatment. For those with residual depressive symptoms following treatment, diminished work productivity may persist. In these cases, additional or more intensive treatment should be considered.

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