Despite Treatment, Depressed Workers Have Decreased Productivity

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Employees with depression have higher costs related to short-term disability and absenteeism, even after receiving antidepressant therapy.
That's the finding of a study in February's Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Led by Suellen Curkendall, Ph.D., of Thomson Reuters Healthcare, the researchers used insurance claims and employee health and productivity databases to look at the relationship between antidepressant treatment and productivity costs. The results suggested employees with depression were about twice as likely to use short-term disability leave compared to workers without depression. For workers with severe depression, the short-term disability rate was three times higher.

Employees with depression also missed more work days. "Even after receiving antidepressant treatment, patients with depression still have significant productivity deficits," Curkendall and colleagues write.

They estimate annual short-term disability costs at about $1,000 per worker with depression and $1,700 per worker with severe depression. These figures are much higher than those amounts for common diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Many studies have linked depression to reduced productivity at work, but less is known about how productivity is affected by treatment for depression. The new results show that even in workers taking antidepressant drugs, depression is associated with increased disability and absenteeism.

The productivity losses probably result from depression or depression symptoms that persist despite treatment, according to Curkendall and colleagues. They write, "Therapies that can better manage depression may provide opportunities for savings to employers."

American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
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Review Date: 
September 17, 2010