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1 in 40 Workers Have Depression-related Disability

Depression is a costly and common cause of short-term disability, affecting one out of every 40 workers and causing potentially lengthy absences from work.

A new study, led by Carolyn S. Dewa, M.D., University of Toronto, analyzed rates of disability caused by depression and other mental and nervous disorders in a data base of nearly 63,000 financial/insurance sector employees from 1996-1998. Researchers reported that 3 percent of the employees studied had at least one episode of disability caused by a mental/nervous disorder, and one-fourth of all disability claims were related to mental/nervous disorders. Overall, 2.5 percent of workers reported an episode of disability caused by depression.

"Depression-related short-term disability is a problem that must be addressed but for which there are no simple solutions," said Dewa.

Depression reportedly caused about 145,000 days of disability and an estimated $20.5 million in lost productivity. Episodes of depression-related disability lasted an average of 95 days, compared with 65 days for other mental/nervous disorders.

"These estimates suggest that the potential magnitude of the impact of short-term disability on the workplace should be a concern for employers," said researchers, who published their study in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

More than three-quarters of the workers who suffered a bout of depression (76 percent) were able to return to work. However, workers with depression were more likely to go on long-term disability than those with other mental/nervous disorders.

Women - especially between the ages of 36 and 55 years - had higher rates of depression-related disability than men. However, men suffering from depression were more likely to go on long-term disability.

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