Depression Costly For Employers
> 1/25/2010 11:22:38 AM

We're well aware that depression can seriously compromise one's productivity and that only successful treatment plans can reverse that trend. A new study, however, concludes that depression has a greater negative influence on workplace efficiency than common and often life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes. Mental illness is more costly to employers in terms of lost man-hours.

Researchers at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine drew from a pool of insurance statistics used in conjunction with employee health and productivity reports to determine that each case of depression ultimately costs employers an average of $1,000 per year; the total is nearly twice as large for workers whose symptoms are chronic and severe. These numbers may appear somewhat modest, but they're much higher than the average annual costs incurred by some of the most common chronic health conditions (like those mentioned above). And they're compounded by stressful work environments.

The reason for these findings? Depressed subjects are twice as likely to take short-term disability leave, a practice whereby workers continue to receive pay during sanctioned health-related absences. Those with severe cases are three times as likely to declare disability. These affected subjects also miss more days, on average, than those who suffer from unrelated conditions like Type 2 diabetes that can ultimately prove even more damaging. Perhaps most alarming is the fact that this trend holds true even after workers receive treatment for depression. It would appear that standard treatment plans may not quite bring workers up to speed in time to mitigate significant losses on the part of their employers.

This conclousion is in keeping with our understanding of chronic depression as an ongoing disorder that responds very gradually to even the most effective forms of treatment. The solution to this problem may lie in the restructuring of insurance plans and the mental health benefits they provide. Employers should work to ensure that the plans they offer their workers allow for visits to the mental health specialists who will ultimately provide the quickest routes to recovery; this practice will almost certainly save them a great deal of money.

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