A new study suggests mental disorders impact work productivity on a scale similar to that of chronic physical conditions.
Researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Harvard Medical School discovered more than half of U.S. adults have a mental or physical condition that influences their ability to carry out normal job responsibilities.
Chronic back-neck pain, followed by major depression were conditions associated with the largest number of days that an individual was unable to carry out a normal job (role functioning).
“Previous research has found that, on the whole, the least amount of health resources are spent on research and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and depression, even though these are the most prevalent and disabling conditions,” said lead researcher Dr. Kathleen Merikangas.
“These results illuminate the discrepancy between how we allocate our health care resources, and which illnesses have the most impact.”
A shift in health care resource allocation could improve the mental health of workers as well as enhance productivity.
The term “role functioning” is used to describe worksite or role disability when an individual is unable to work or carry out usual activities.
Role disability has become increasingly recognized as a major source of indirect costs of illness because of its high economic impact on ill workers, their employers, and society.
The researchers discovered more than 1.3 billion days out of role performance are lost each year in the U.S. due to mental disorders; and major depression is the mental disorder associated with the largest number of days out of role.
The study found that the number of days out of role due to mental disorders is roughly half as large as the number of days associated with all chronic physical conditions combined.
These results are based on the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication (NCS-R), a nation-wide survey of 9,282 Americans ages 18 and older funded by the NIMH.
Respondents in the survey were asked how many days they were completely unable to work or carry out their usual activities as a result of problems with their physical or mental health.
The associations between each of the individual physical and mental disorders with days of role disability were examined using innovative methods to sort out the relative effects of co-occurring conditions among people who reported having multiple health problems.
Nationwide, about 2.4 billion disability days resulted from the chronic physical conditions studied and about 1.3 billion disability days resulted from the mental conditions studied.
The study may be found in the October 2007 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Source: Harvard Medical School