Employers Urged to Improve Depression Interventions

A new survey may motivate employers to consider proactive strategies to address depression in the workplace.

Researchers found nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of U.S. respondents indicated they have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime and two in five (nearly 40 percent) of those patients reported taking time off of work because of depression. Notably, the time off work for depression averaged 10 days a year.

The findings stem from The Impact of Depression at Work Audit (IDeA) an initiative charged with determining the societal and economic burden of depression in the workplace. Results were presented at the National Business Coalition on Health’s annual meeting.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, in a given year, one in 10 Americans will suffer from a depressive illness. Experts also note that clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, is now the second-leading cause of disability worldwide.

The new survey provides stark evidence that the incidence of depression is significantly impacting productivity in the workplace.

Researchers discovered that 64 percent of survey participants reported cognitive-related challenges at work because of depression. Problems encountered include difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness, and/or forgetfulness, each of which impacts the ability to perform tasks as normal.

Presenteeism, or being at work, but being not engaged/productive, has been found to be exacerbated by these challenges.

Despite how depression is affecting our workforce, 58 percent of employees surveyed who have been diagnosed with depression indicate they had not told their employer of their disease.

In addition, 49 percent felt telling their employer would put their job a risk and, given the economic climate, 24 percent felt it was too risky to share their diagnosis with their employer.

“The survey provides evidence surrounding the detrimental impact of depression on the U.S. workforce and the associated stigma of the disease,” said Brian Klepper, chief executive officer of the National Business Coalition on Health.

“The results demonstrate the vital need for employers to provide support and resources in the workplace for those suffering from this debilitating disease.”

Accelerated employer support for depression is indicated as a means to aid employee health and as a way to improve productivity and reduce work-related health care costs.

Experts estimate that $100 billion dollars is spent annually on depression costs by U.S. employers including $44 billion a year in lost productivity alone. Additionally, mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10 percent annually.

Unfortunately, this prevalence and unmet need does not currently translate into help for people with depression, as more than 35 percent of managers reported receiving no formal support or resources to guide their employees.

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.

This emotional and financial burden has lead Employers Health Coalition, Inc. and The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation, to create the Right Direction initiative.

The initiative is 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 enterprise offers a wealth of turnkey resources, ranging from content for intranet sites to template PowerPoint presentations, for employers that can be customized to communicate with the c-suite, managers and employees.

“We designed the Right Direction initiative to specifically cater to the needs of employers, in order to ensure this resource is as helpful and easy to execute as possible,” said Marcas Miles, senior director of marketing and communications with Employers Health Coalition.

“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.”

Source: GCI Health NY/EurekAlert