The Effects of Depression in the Workplace
Success in the work environment depends on everyone's contribution. That's why no one in the workplace can afford to ignore depression.
This year, more than 19 million American adults (9.5% of the population) will suffer from this often misunderstood disorder. It is not a passing mood. It is not a personal weakness. It is a major-but treatable-illness. No job category or professional level is immune, and even a formerly outstanding employee can be affected.
The good news is that, in more than 80% of cases, treatment is effective. It enables people with depression to return to satisfactory, functioning lives. And nearly everyone gets some degree of relief. Treatment includes medication, short-term talk therapy, or a combination of both.
Untreated depression is costly. A RAND Corporation study found that patients with depressive symptoms spend more days in bed than those with diabetes, arthritis, back problems, lung problems or gastrointestinal disorders. Estimates of the total cost of depression to the Nation in 1990 range from $30-$44 billion. Of the $44 billion figure, depression accounts for close to $12 billion in lost work days each year. Additionally, more than $11 billion in other costs accrue from decreased productivity due to symptoms that sap energy, affect work habits, cause problems with concentration, memory, and decision-making. And costs escalate still further if a worker's untreated depression contributes to alcoholism or drug abuse.
Still more business costs result when an employee or colleague has a family member suffering from depression. The depression of a spouse or child can disrupt working hours, lead to days absent from work, effect concentration and morale, and decrease productivity.
Workers at every level in an organization can do something about depression. You can start by learning more about this common and serious illness. If you think you or a loved one may have depression, take action.
Seek consultation from an employee assistance counselor or contact your health provider. The information you share will remain confidential. You can't overcome depression by willpower, so it is important to seek professional help.
Employers and Supervisors
Employers and managers can play an additional role in altering the impact of depression in the workplace:
- Review corporate medical programs and employee health benefits.
- Make sure your employee assistance program staff are trained to recognize depressive disorders, make appropriate referrals, and provide other assistance consistent with policies and practices.
- Increase management awareness.
- Educate employees about depression by providing them information from this website.
- Work with national or community organizations to obtain, display, and distribute information about depression at your workplace and provide employees with referrals to treatment.
Also see the article, What to Do When and Employee is Depressed: A Guide for Supervisors
Symptoms of Depression
- Persistent sad, "empty" or anxious mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
- Sleep disturbances
- Eating disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisionsv
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Excessive crying
- Chronic aches and pains
If a person has five or more of these symptoms for more than two weeks, or interfere with work or family, get a thorough diagnosis. This includes a complete physical and a review of family history of illness.
Source: The National Institute of Mental Health