Study Links Depression and Lower Productivity at Work

Employers have long coped with employee absenteeism, or workers staying off the job for a variety of health or personal reasons. Now researchers at Yale University found that "presenteeism" is a significant problem involving depressed employees.

In a study of some 6,000 employees at three corporations, the researchers identified decreased productivity on the job as a result of workers' reluctance to consider depression as a legitimate reason for taking sick leave.

The Yale study found that workers exhibiting symptoms of depression were twice as likely to miss work due to health reasons. Decreased performance on the job is seven times higher for depressed employees, the researchers said.

"The perceived stigma associated with depressive disorders may thus result in a high proportion of hidden costs to employers," the researchers said in a report on their findings published in the May issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Medical and Financial Value

The American Psychiatric Association, which publishes the monthly scientific journal, seeks a role in helping businesses improve employee productivity. The association wants employers to recognize that providing better access to psychiatric care is good for their balance sheets.

"The message is clear: there is both medical and financial value in better detection and effective treatment for depression in the workplace," said Dr. Lloyd Sederer, director of the association's clinical services division.

The loss of productivity from presenteeism related to depression may be more widespread than employers realize from an analysis of health or disability claims data, the authors said.

The researchers set out to examine the relationship of depression, satisfaction with health care and worker productivity. Their report said depression in the workplace is common.