Depression is affecting workplace productivity in America, according to a new survey.

It shows that nearly a quarter of American workers have been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime and that more than one third needed time off from work because of depression.

“The survey provides evidence surrounding the detrimental impact of depression on the US workforce and the associated stigma of the disease,” Brian Klepper, chief executive officer of the National Business Coalition on Health, said in a news release.

“The results demonstrate the vital need for employers to provide support and resources in the workplace for those suffering from this debilitating disease,” Klepper added.

A Costly Secret

The Impact of Depression at Work Audit (IDeA) survey evaluated the societal and economic burden of depression in the workplace. Participants included 1000 adults aged 16 to 64 years who have been workers or managers within the last year.

Employers Health, an Ohio-based employer coalition, released the survey results today at the National Business Coalition on Health Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 10 Americans will suffer from a depressive illness in a given year.

The IDeA survey shows that depression has a significant impact on workplace productivity.

Twenty-three percent of those surveyed reported having been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime, and 39% needed time off from work as a result of their depression. Most took around 10 days off work the last time they experienced a depressive episode.

Low mood/sadness (78%), loss of interest in daily activities (58%), and cognitive-related problems (52%) were the symptoms that led most depressed workers to take time off from work.

Two thirds (64%) of depressed workers reported that cognitive-related challenges, such as difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness, and/or forgetfulness, had the most impact on their ability to do their job. Challenges related to thinking on the job are known to exacerbate so-called “presenteeism” ? being at work but not being engaged or productive.

Despite the negative impact depression has on workers, the survey found that 58% of employees with depression said they had not told their employer of their disease. Nearly half (49%) felt that telling their employer would put their job at risk, and given the economic climate, 24% felt it was too risky to share their diagnosis with their employer.

“These figures directly contribute to the estimated $100 billion annually spent on depression costs by U.S. employers including $44 billion a year in lost productivity alone. Additionally, mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10 percent annually,” according to the news release.

Roughly 35% of managers surveyed said they had no formal support or resources to help their employees with depression.

The Employers Health Coalition, Inc, and the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation, has created the Right Direction initiative (www.RightDirectionForMe.com), a depression awareness campaign designed to provide employers with the tools needed to address and manage the effects of depression for employees.

(Megan Brooks November 12, 2014)

Depression impacts work, in addition to the rest of life.  For help with depression, please call.  You’re not alone.