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Depression’s $23 Billion Toll on the American Workplace


People diagnosed with clinical depression are much more likely to miss work. How much does their absenteeism cost the U.S. workplace? One study says it adds up to $23 billion a year in lost productivity.

(Photo credit: UrbaneWomenMag / Flickr)

That figure was reported by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a database of feedback from 237,615 employees and 66,010 employers between 2011 and 2012. To gauge depression, the index asks respondents if a doctor ever told them they were depressed. 

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Gallup asked employees hoe many days in the past month did their poor mental health keep them from carrying out their usual responsibilities. The survey found that people with depression annually skip an additional 68 million days of work compared to their neurotypical counterparts.

Twelve percent of the workforce has been diagnosed at one point or another with depression, yet only half say they seek treatment for it. 

Part-time workers report a higher incidence of depression at 16.6 percent. They skip an average of 13.7 work days a year because of poor health compared to 8.7 days for part-timers who’ve never received a depression diagnosis.

Full-timers diagnosed with depression make up 10.8 percent of the full-time workforce and average about 8.7 skipped work days per annum because of poor health compared to just 4.6 work days for their never-diagnosed counterparts.

“Thus, those who have depression or a history of depression miss more than four additional days per year as a function of poor health, after controlling for age, gender, income, education, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and obesity classification,” the Gallup mental health blog reads.

The blog encourages employers to consider ways to improve workers’ performance by making sure there are resources available for early identification and treatment, such as employee assistance programs. It also encourages them to de-stigmatize the disease by making it OK to talk about it and ask for help when needed.

(Image credit: Gallup, Inc.)

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What do you think employers and employees could do to lessen the financial burden of absenteeism? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Jennifer Wadsworth
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