An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
That’s a lot of people.
What most people don’t realize is the burden of mental illness on health and productivity in the United
States – and how it’s affecting our workers.
Depression affects about six percent of employees every year, costing more than $30 billion annually in lost productivity. Many of these depressed workers are untreated or inadequately treated.
While cost-of-illness studies show that depression is among the most costly of all health problems to employers, a new study shows that investing in depressed employees can cut absenteeism while improving workers’ health.
Despite many employers’ view that mental health coverage is a financial black hole, the study, funded by NIMH and reported in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association, shows spending money on depression is a smart business move, says researcher Philip Wang.
Workers involved in the year-long study were given treatment and even received telephone psychotherapy. Employees who got this intervention worked about two weeks more on average during the study than those who got the usual care – advice to see their doctor or seek a mental health specialist.
At the year’s end, 93 percent of workers from the intervention group were still employed, compared to 88 percent of workers not in the group, which helped employers avoid hiring and training costs, researchers said.
Plus, the “intervention employees” were almost 40 percent more likely to recover from depression.