Depression is a major problem in the workplace. The economic toll of depression on U.S. Companies is estimated $30 to $44 billion dollars per year in lost productivity, employee absenteeism, and low morale. As part of its annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) includes questions to assess lifetime and past year major depressive episode (MDE) among adults aged 18 or older. Combined data from 2004 to 2006 indicate that 7.0 percent of all full-time workers aged 18 to 64 experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year.
Depression is higher in some occupations and industry classes than others. Survey data reveals that personal care and service workers experienced rates of depression that were more than 2.5 times higher than engineers, architects, and surveyors. Here’s a list of job classes and the rates of depression from the survey:
10.8% – Personal Care and Service
10.3% – Food Preparation and Serving Related
9.6% – Community and Social Services
9.6% – Healthcare Practitioners and Technical
9.1% – Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media
8.7% – Education, Training, and Library
8.1% – Office and Administrative Support
7.3% – Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance
6.7% – Financial
6.7% – Sales and Related
6.4% – Legal
6.4% – Transportation and Material Moving
6.2% – Mathematical and Computer Scientists
5.9% – Production
5.8% – Management
5.6% – Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
5.5% – Protective Service
4.8% – Construction and Extraction
4.4% – Installation, Maintenance, and Repair
4.4% – Life, Physical, and Social Science
4.3% – Engineering, Architecture, and Surveyors
More detailed information about survey results can be accessed at SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies.
Managers and supervisors should be trained to be alert for changes in job performance that may reflect common symptoms of depression. While it’s not a manager’s role to be a counselor, managers are in a position to refer an employee to professionals such as an EAP who can help to discover the underlying reason for the change in performance. Employers can also facilitate help for their troubled employees by making basic mental health information available through health and wellness programs. Wellness programs tend to focus on physical issues related to key health drivers, such as obesity, exercise, and smoking cessation. Issuing basic information about mental health matters, such as checklists of signs and symptoms of depression in a company newsletter, can also be very beneficial to both employees and the organization’s bottom line. For a few resources that might be helpful to such educational efforts, check The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


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