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Depression Care for Workers Improves Health, Productivity

A new Canadian study discovers employees with depression who receive treatment while still working are significantly more likely to be highly productive than those who do not.

Researchers say this is the first study of its kind to look into a possible correlation between treatment and productivity.

Given the global economic morass, efforts to improve health and well-being and enhance productivity are sorely needed. Mental illness costs the Canadian economy an estimated $51 billion annually, with a third of that attributed to productivity losses.

In the U.S., nearly 20 million Americans experience some form of the disorder in a given year. The good news is that four out of five individuals with depression can be successfully treated; however, experts believe 80 percent of the population with depression goes undiagnosed and untreated.

Although symptoms may vary, depression typically causes obvious emotional distress, increases the risk of additional health disorders, hampers sleep and sexual function, and can cause an individual to feel sad and empty.

Since the disorder is common and often undiagnosed and untreated, workplace productivity often suffers. In the new study, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers examined data from a large-scale community survey of employed and recently employed people in Alberta.

Not surprisingly, investigators found people who experienced a depressive episode were significantly less likely to be highly productive. “We expected this, as past research has found that depression has adverse effects on comprehension, social participation, and day-to-day-functioning,” said researcher Carolyn Dewa, Ph.D.

“What’s exciting is we found that treatment for depression improves work productivity. People who had experienced a moderate depressive episode and received treatment were 2.5 times more likely to be highly productive compared with those who had no treatment,” she said.

“Likewise, people who experienced severe depression were seven times more likely to be high-performing than those who had no treatment.”

Of the 3,000 workers in the in the sample, 8.5 per cent experienced a depressive episode, representing 255 workers.

While the analyses showed that treatment improves work performance, the data also showed a troubling trend.

“We found that among all study participants who had been diagnosed with a severe depressive episode, 57 per cent did not receive treatment; 40 per cent of those who experienced a moderate depressive episode did not receive treatment,” said Dewa.

“When we look at the success of workers in the sample who received treatment while still in the workplace, it really speaks to the importance of prevention and the need for employers to facilitate treatment and support. If people are able to receive treatment early, disability leave, which costs companies $18,000 per leave, may be avoided.”

“Stigma and discrimination have often affected people’s willingness to access to services, as has the lack of knowledge around supports available in the workplace,” added Dewa.

“It is crucial that employers offer mental health interventions to their employees and support them in engaging in treatment, as well as continuing to support them as they transition back into the workplace.”

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Depression Care for Workers Improves Health, Productivity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Depression Care for Workers Improves Health, Productivity. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Jan 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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