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Depression’s billion-dollar hit to workplace productivity

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Depression in the workplace extracts a cost — $44 billion a year. Yet half of employees who self-identify as suffering from depression don’t tell their bosses about the disorder for fear of losing their jobs.

The employer coalition Employers Health released results of its survey, the “Impact of Depression at Work Audit,” and offered these chilling observations:

  • 23 percent of U.S. respondents indicated they have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime;
  • Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10 percent annually;
  • 40 percent of those patients reported taking time off of work – an average of 10 days a year;
  • 58 percent of employees surveyed who have been diagnosed with depression indicate they had not told their employer of their disorder;
  • 49 percent felt telling their employer would put their job at risk;
  • More than 35 percent of managers reported receiving no formal support or resources to guide their employees.

“Depression is significantly impacting productivity in the workplace,” the coalition said in a report. “In fact, 64 percent of survey participants reported cognitive-related challenges, as defined by difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness and/or forgetfulness, have the most impact on their ability to perform tasks at work as normal. Presenteeism (being at work, but not engaged/productive) has been found to be exacerbated by these challenges related to thinking on the job.”

The coalition said depression extracts about $100 billion annually from U.S. employers including $44 billion a year in lost productivity alone.

“Yet, research shows that supporting the needs of those living with depression makes a difference. In fact, a cost-benefit modeling study by Lo Sasso et al. suggests every one dollar invested by employers in enhanced depression care yields approximately three dollars for the company in the form of productivity gains by employees.”

The coalition joined forces with The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation, to create the Right Direction initiative. The groups describe this as “a first-of-its-kind, free depression awareness campaign designed to provide employers with the tools needed to address and manage the effects of depression for employees. The resources available through the initiative can be accessed here.

“The goal of the initiative is to raise awareness and reduce stigma around depression in order to provide a more productive workplace and supportive company culture,” said Marcas Miles, senior director of marketing and communications with Employers Health Coalition.

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