Gallup Poll: Depression Costs Over $23 Billion in Workplace Absenteeism
A Gallup poll released last month cites that employees in the United States, who, at some point in their lives, have been diagnosed with depression, miss an estimated 68 million additional days of work each year than their counterparts who have not been depressed. The result: An estimated cost of more than $23 billion, or approximately $341 per absence per employee, in lost productivity annually to U.S. employers.
Moreover, in 2013 thus far, Gallup found that an average 12% of all workers nationwide say they have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime, and about half of those who have been (representing 6.1% of all U.S. workers) are currently being treated for depression.
Gallup’s findings were based on data collected in its “Well-Being Index” study, conducted from January 2011 to December 2012. The study interviewed 303,625 working adults nationwide. To measure depression, respondents were asked: “Has a doctor or nurse ever told you that you are depressed?” This analysis includes all respondents who say they have ever been diagnosed with depression, even if they are not currently being treated for depression.
Furthermore, Gallup used respondents’ answers to the question – “During the past 30 days, for about how many days did poor health keep you from doing your usual activities?” – to calculate unhealthy days. Then to estimate how unhealthy days per month translate into missed workdays, workers were asked: “Earlier, you indicated that you had xx days in the last month where poor health prevented you from doing your usual activities. How many actual workdays in the last month did you not work due to poor health?”
Full-time workers who have been diagnosed with depression make up make up 10.8% of the U.S. full-time workforce and average 8.7 missed workdays each year due to poor health. Workers who have never been diagnosed with depression miss an average of 4.6 workdays per year. Thus, those who have depression or a history of depression miss more than four additional days per year as a function of poor health, after controlling for age, gender, income, education, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and obesity classification.
Part-time workers are more likely to report having ever been diagnosed with depression, at 16.6%, and miss an average of 13.7 workdays per year due to poor health. This compares to 8.7 missed days per year among part-time workers who have never been depressed.
According to Gallup, nationally, one in eight U.S. workers have been diagnosed with depression, yielding tens of millions in the workforce who have either grappled with emotional health issues in the past or do so today. What’s more, the report cites that the cost of absenteeism estimates shown in this analysis exclude other potential economic costs associated with depression, including productivity loss while on the job, healthcare utilization, workers’ compensation, and turnover, among others.
Employers looking to help improve the mental wellbeing among some employees with depression or depressive symptoms, according to the report, should engage them through the fulfillment of certain critical psychological needs in the workplace. “Engaged employees demonstrate an elevated willingness to participate in workplace wellbeing programs and boast elevated physical and emotional health when compared with those who are disengaged. Engaged employees also have a better mood during the workweek and do not experience increased stress from prolonged commute times.”
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