Depression in the workplace

Burden and impact of depression

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 350 million people.1 Depression is both common and serious, affecting different people in different ways.2 In addition to the commonly recognised symptom of low mood, less well understood are the cognitive symptoms of depression, e.g. lack of concentration, indecisiveness or forgetfulness, which are present up to 94% of the time during depressive episodes.3 Cognitive symptoms are associated with worse clinical and social outcomes in depression and affect many aspects of a patient’s life – leading to impaired work and social functioning.4 Even when remission is achieved, the chronic nature of depression means that symptoms, particularly cognitive symptoms, often persist.5

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that depression has a higher burden than lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers combined, and more than other psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.6,7 Depression has a corrosive effect on an individual’s ability to function at home, at work, and socially.8 Depression will impact an individual’s relationships with family, friends and colleagues, while time off work or reduced productivity at work can significantly affect the financial situation and push people into debt.9 Symptoms of depression also reduce the quality of life for an individual, while putting the person at increased risk of accidents and self-harm.
Depression has significant socio‐economic costs. In 2010 it was estimated that depression cost the European economy €92 billion, of which approximately €54 billion (59%) related to indirect costs (such as absence from work).10