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U.S. Worker Depression Rates Skyrocket

May 1, 2019
Young employees experience "severe decline" in mental health.

Despite historically low unemployment rates, the health and mental well-being of U.S. workers continues to fall.

New research from Happify, a mental health app, shows that American employees with symptoms of depression rose more than 18% between 2014 and 2018.

"Given the costs of depression for employers – about $210 billion annually and 32 days of lost productivity for each employee with a depressive disorder, this research should raise alarms about the mental health needs of American workers," said Ran Zilca, Happify chief data science officer.

Workers' mental well-being sank to a five-year low in 2018. The analysis of a half million people shows a correlation between age and prevalence of depressive symptoms, particularly among employees between the ages of 18-24.

The younger population experienced depressive symptoms at double the rate of the general population. The rate increased 39% over the past five years, Happify reported.

Millennials, ages 25-34, saw a 24% rise in symptoms between 2014 and 2018, although the increase was not as drastic.

"Young adulthood is a transitional time when we're often just entering the workforce, figuring out who we are and what we want to do with our lives, which can be very challenging and, for some, can cause very negative psychological reactions while not having yet developed the skills to combat those feelings," Zilca said. "What is really interesting about this data is that there has been such a significant downward trend in the mental health of employees in general, and in particular among younger workers, including millennials, over the past five years. While this analysis doesn't tell us if the causes are internal or external to their employment, we know from prior Happify research that younger adults tend to be more stressed and worried about job-related matters than older workers."

In contrast, older employees between the ages of 55-64 showed improvements in their mental health. 

Depression among female workers was significantly greater than males, with symptoms up 44% across all age groups.

Millennial women showed depressive symptoms at double the rate of males in the age group. The reverse gender difference was found among 35-44 year olds and across older age categories, with men having lower mental health rates than women of that age.

About the Author

Stefanie Valentic

Stefanie Valentic was formerly managing editor of EHS Today, and is currently editorial director of Waste360.

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