Treating depression at work can increase productivity: CAMH

Employers should offer mental health interventions, support to employees
||Last Updated: 01/11/2012

Employees with depression who receive treatment while still working are significantly more likely to be highly productive than those who do not, according to a new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Published in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the study examined data from a large-scale community survey of 3,000 employed and recently employed people in Alberta.

Of the 3,000 people surveyed, 255 experienced a depressive episode and they were significantly less likely to be highly productive — because depression has adverse effects on comprehension, social participation and day-to-day-functioning, found the study. However, treatment for depression was found to increase productivity at work.

“People who had experienced a moderate depressive episode and received treatment were 2.5 times more likely to be highly productive compared with those who had no treatment," said Carolyn Dewa, head of CAMH’s Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health and lead author of the report. "Likewise, people who experienced severe depression were seven times more likely to be high-performing than those who had no treatment."

Among all study participants who had been diagnosed with a severe depressive episode, 57 per cent did not receive treatment and 40 per cent of those who experienced a moderate depressive episode did not receive treatment, found the report.

"When we look at the success of workers in the sample who received treatment while still in the workplace, it really speaks to the importance of prevention and the need for employers to facilitate treatment and support,” said Dewa. “If people are able to receive treatment early, disability leave, which costs companies $18,000 per leave, may be avoided."

Employers should offer mental health interventions to their employees and support them in engaging in treatment, as well as continuing to support them as they transition back into the workplace, said Dewa.

Mental illness costs the Canadian economy an estimated $51 billion annually, with one-third of that attributed to productivity losses, said CAMH.

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