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Home > Research Articles > Despite Company Efforts, Employees with Depression View Illness as Roadblock to Career Success-New Research Shows Proactive Programs and Effective Treatment Can Significantly Improve Productivity

PR Newswire

Monday, March 22, 2004

PR Newswire - March 22, 2004

NEW YORK, Mar 22, 2004 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Although corporate America believes it is effectively addressing depression in the workplace, only 41 percent of employees feel they can acknowledge their illness and still get ahead in their careers.

According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan Depression Center (UMDC), employees who are fully treated for their depression have greater symptom control, which significantly improves productivity and optimism about career advancement. Unfortunately, while 89 percent of employees report having some form of mental health coverage, three out of four delay seeking help and 36 percent remain only partially treated.

The survey, presented today at a summit co-sponsored by UMDC and the National Mental Health Association, explores employee and line- and benefit management perceptions of depression and how it is addressed in the workplace.

Survey findings clearly highlight the difference between company perception and employee reality:

* Sixty-five percent of benefit managers report providing an employee assistance program (EAP) for depression, yet only 14 percent of employees with depression have ever accessed one;

* Eighty-five percent of middle managers believe assisting employees with depression is part of their job, yet only 18 percent have received the training necessary to identify depression and intervene with employees effectively;

* Eighty-three percent of benefit managers feel their companies have taken steps to ensure employees with depression are supported by their co-workers, yet only 37 percent conduct proactive depression education programs;

* Seventy-eight percent of benefit managers believe loss in productivity due to depression is more costly to companies than treating it, yet only 11 percent facilitate employee screenings.

"Before employees can be treated, they need to first understand that they have an illness. Implementing proactive, relatively inexpensive initiatives, such as screening, disease education and manager training, can have a tremendous impact on worker productivity and overall employee well-being," said Thomas Carli, MD, a psychiatrist and member of the University of Michigan Depression Center. "These programs will also create a more supportive, stigma-free environment, which may encourage employees to feel more comfortable about accessing the mental health services available to them."

The Business Burden

At any given time, one in 10 employees experiences depression(1), costing companies $52 billion in absenteeism and reduced productivity(2). The physical symptoms of depression, such as vague aches and pains, headaches and backaches, can complicate diagnosis for employees and magnify the economic burden for employers(3). Among employees surveyed, depression had a wide- ranging impact on their ability to function, including lack of motivation (83 percent), difficulty concentrating (82 percent), and chronic physical pain (24 percent) that made it uncomfortable for them to work. In addition, half reported missing one to three days of work a month as a result of their illness.

Proactive Disease Education Drives Dramatic Shift in Perception

Once depression is treated properly, a person's performance is indistinguishable from that of co-workers who do not have the illness. The survey results demonstrate that offering a greater number of "best practice" services, such as screenings, supervisor training and proactive education, creates a culture of acceptance and support that can positively influence a person's ability or willingness to seek appropriate care.

"The workplace serves as an important point of intervention. In fact, many people who have been diagnosed and treated for depression say they were driven to seek treatment by a co-worker or a boss," said Lea Ann Browning- McNee, National Mental Health Association. "The UMDC survey underscores the positive impact that proactive mental health education and services have on overall employee well-being and productivity."

In general, employees in companies with a greater number of best practices implemented, express higher levels of job satisfaction, are less likely to view their illness as a barrier to career advancement, have greater control of disease symptoms, and feel strongly that their company is supporting them with their illness. Similarly, middle managers with a greater level of knowledge about depression and access to training are generally more comfortable managing someone with depression and are more likely to intervene in a positive way.


The "Depression in the Workplace" survey was sponsored by the University of Michigan Depression Center and supported by Eli Lilly and Company. On behalf of UMDC, Public Opinion Strategies interviewed 443 depressed employees, 300 middle managers and 207 benefit managers in January and February of this year. All respondents worked at companies with 500 or more employees.

Employees were interviewed online using an Internet panel compiled by Harris Interactive, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.66 percent. Employees identified themselves as currently being treated for depression or having been treated within the last 3 years. Middle and benefit managers were interviewed over the telephone, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.66 percent and plus or minus 6.8 percent, respectively. Middle managers had titles of VP, manager or director, and had direct supervision of at least five employees in the daily operation of their job. Benefit managers were in employee benefit and human resources management with responsibility for managing or making decisions regarding the health benefits offered at their company.

About UMDC

The University of Michigan Depression Center is the nation's first comprehensive center devoted to research, treatment, education and public policy involving the depressive disorders. It is a diverse, multidisciplinary consortium of scientists, clinicians, educators, administrators, advocates and other professionals from throughout the University of Michigan who share an uncommon dedication to the challenge of depression, bipolar disorder and related illnesses. The UMDC is currently preparing to build a permanent home for its innovative clinical, community and research programs, and its leaders hope to provide a model for a future nationwide network of depression centers.

(1) Stewart W, Ricci J, Chee E, Hahn S, Morganstein D. Cost of Lost

Productive Work Time Among US Workers with Depression. Journal of the

American Medical Association. 2003; 289:3135-3144.

(2) Greenberg P, et al. The Economic Burden of Depression in the United

States: How did it Change Between 1990 and 2000? Journal of Clinical

Psychiatry. 2003; 64(12): 1465-75.

(3) Greenberg P, et al. The Economic Burden of Depression With Painful

Symptoms. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2003; 64 (suppl 7): 17-23.

SOURCE University of Michigan Depression Center CONTACT: Kara Gavin or Krista Hopson, both of University of Michigan,

+1-734-764-2220; or Michelle Elghanayan of Chamberlain Communications Group,

+1-212-884-0651, for University of Michigan


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