Workplace depression often unrecognized, new study says
Workplace depression often unrecognized, new study says

Workplace depression often unrecognized, new study says

More than half of workers with depression do not seek treatment, according to a recent study.

The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, investigated barriers to mental health care experienced by workers and the resulting impact on productivity. As many as 40 per cent of participants were experiencing significant depressive symptoms and, of that group, 52.8 per cent did not recognize a need to seek help. Similar rates have also been observed in population studies in the United States and Australia.

“Our results suggest that a significant number of workers who are experiencing symptoms of depression do not recognize they could benefit from help, and so do not seek it,” says Dr. Carolyn Dewa, head of CAMH’s Centre for Research on Employment and Workplace Health and lead author of the study. “This barrier has a significant impact on health and work productivity, and is an area where employers can focus efforts to reduce work productivity loss.”

The findings are based on responses from 2,219 Ontario adults who completed either a telephone questionnaire or a web-based survey. Participants were between 18-65 years old and had been in the workforce during the preceding 12 months.

As part of the study, researchers also developed a model to help employers identify key barriers to treatment. Strategies could be targeted to these barriers to increase the use of mental health services among workers with symptoms of depression. Dr. Dewa and her team calculated that by removing the barrier caused by the unrecognized need for treatment, there would be a 33 per cent decrease in work productivity loss.

“It’s important for employers to know where to start when it comes to tackling productivity loss related to untreated depression,” says Dr. Dewa. “Our study suggests that helping workers understand when they should be seeking help would significantly boost work productivity.”

In addition to treatment need, researches also assessed attitudinal and structural barriers to accessing mental health services. Attitudinal barriers include stigma of mental illness and belief that treatment is ineffective.

Structural barriers include financial limitations and difficulty accessing appropriate mental health care. When all three types of barriers were removed, researchers found that loss of work productivity would be reduced by nearly 50 per cent.

“Improving recognition for treatment is not the only opportunity for employers,” says Dr. Dewa. “The most effective workplace mental health strategies will acknowledge the complexity of the problem and address all aspects in a comprehensive way.”


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    1. People suffering depression related to their jobs? What a news flash. Most people don’t like their jobs and employers make them less and less attractive. I work as a nurse in mental health- top heavy management and increasing and inefficient bureaucracy are crushing an already stressful job. Sick for any length of time? The sick police will nail you. Need time off for stress? Sorry, no longer accepted as a viable reason. Increased awareness and understanding in society regarding mental illness? Give me a break! Increased pressure on mental health facilities both in the hospital and in the community with an increasing bureaucracy gobbling up precious and stagnant funding is not helping matters. Studies and articles such as these are important for raising awareness. However, little is actually being done. Hope it changes.

    2. I now work for a family worker where there is a lot less stress. People are shitty for the most part when they have any power over you. If you don’t know how to be political and suck up to the “right” people, you are demolished little by little. Pristiq does the job for me, it’s expensive but does work.

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