Depressed Employees Take Twice as Many Sick Days

A just-released study confirms that depression is common in the workplace and detrimental to employee performance.

A just-released study -- adding to the growing body of scientific evidence on employee productivity -- confirms that depression is common in the workplace and detrimental to employee performance.

These findings are reported in the May issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, the monthly scientific journal of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The study found that absenteeism due to health problems was twice as high for employees with depressive symptoms compared to those without depressive symptoms.

The study also revealed that the likelihood of decreased performance on the job is seven times higher for depressed employees.

The Yale University research investigators termed decreased productivity on the job as "presenteeism" and was a likely result of employee reluctance to report an illness or to consider depression a "legitimate reason" for taking sick leave.

"The perceived stigma associated with depressive disorders may thus result in a high proportion of hidden costs to employers that are not readily evident from health or disability claims data," said researchers.

The study of more than 6,000 employees at three corporations took a close look at the relationship between depression, satisfaction with health care and employee productivity.

The study also found that employees who complained about their health care --including problems with access, communications, choice and continuity of care -- were also more likely to be depressed and work less productively.

According to Dr. Lloyd Sederer, director of the Division of Clinical Services for the APA, "The message is clear: there is both medical and financial value in better detection and effective treatment for depression in the workplace."

"The APA is strongly committed to working with employers to greatly improve access to quality psychiatric care," said Dr. Norman Clemens, chair of APA''s Committee on APA/Business Relationships. "Quality psychiatric care is good for employees and their families, and it makes economic good sense for business."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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