Depression interferes with work

Effects persist years after depressive episode

The majority of the one-half million Canadian workers who experience depression say the symptoms interfere with their ability to work, according to a new Statistics Canada study.

The Health Reports study "Depression and work impairment," based on the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey, shows that almost four per cent of workers aged 25 to 64 had experienced depression in the year before the survey.

Nearly 8 out of 10 (79 per cent) of those workers said the depressive symptoms had interfered with their ability to work. Almost one in five (19 per cent) reported a very severe degree of interference.

The study found that the workers most prone to depression were those who regularly worked evening or night shifts, along with those employed in sales or service. Those who worked longer hours (more than 40 hours a week) were less likely to be depressed than those who worked fewer hours (less than 30 hours a week).

Depressed workers reported an average of 32 days during the year when their symptoms made them unable to carry out normal activities or totally unable to work.

Workers who had a recent episode of depression were also more likely to miss work due to other long-term health conditions than those with no history of depression (29 per cent compared to 10 per cent).

As well, 13 per cent of workers who had experienced depression reported taking at least one day off work due to mental health reasons. Only one per cent of workers with no history of depression had taken a mental health disability day in the previous two weeks.

Also, 16 per cent of workers who had had a recent depressive episode had been absent from work in the past week, twice the proportion of seven per cent of those who had never had a depressive episode.

Even a couple of years after the depressive episode, the impact on the person's ability to work persists.

Workers who had been depressed were 1.4 times as likely to report reduced work activities two years after the depressive episode because of a long-term physical or mental health condition, compared with workers who had not had a recent depressive episode.

As well, two years later, workers who had had a depressive episode were 1.8 times as likely to report having taken at least one disability day in the past two weeks.

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