The Cost of Depression
Aspire Learning Space
Aug 16, 2021

It might seem like the fight with depression is a relatively modern one, but you’d be mistaken. Accounts of depression have been recorded as early as Mesopotamian times. Every ancient civilization has records of what seems to have been depressed. We know now it as MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), but back then, they believed that these were demons that had inhabited the person suffering and that they had to find ways to draw them out.

It also seems that depression is on the rise, that we hear more and more people around us and in the public eye afflicted by it. This time however, you’d be right in thinking so.

In 2015, the WHO reported that 322 million people around the world were living with depression. That represented an 18.4% rise from the report made in 2005. Not only was the increase in the number of people with depression, but also in the age groups suffering from it, particularly with a steep rise for millennials.

The data can send shivers down your spine. It spreads across nations, continents, age groups, gender and income status.

Keeping in mind, this data isn’t updated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in symptoms of depression like almost nothing we’ve seen before.

The US Census Bureau reported that 42% of US adults are experiencing symptoms of depression as of December 2020. That number was 11% the year before.

These symptoms might be transient, but studies have shown that in the aftermath of major upheavals and shocking events, many continue to experience the burden of depression and other debilitating mental health disorders for years to come.

The Delta variants and political conflicts regarding vaccinations only go to add to that burden and stress, leading to more depression symptoms.

There was an important study published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The aim was to examine the trends in costs of depression on the economy and job markets. What they found was that so far, the total economic burden of MDD is upwards of $210 billion per year as of 2015. Most notably, they found that (48%-50%) of those costs were attributed to the workplace.

Depression in the workplace manifests itself in two forms:

  • Absenteeism
  • Presenteeism

Absenteeism means the missed days from work due to MDD, while presenteeism represents the decreased efficiency or productivity due to MDD while being at work.

Presenteeism is the more major player. It represents 77% of the cost of MDD in the workplace and 37% of the overall MDD costs.

Furthermore, MDD doesn’t just come by itself, it brings its friends as well.

62% of the costs MDD were attributed to direct and indirect diseases that arise from MDD. This makes the issue even more complex as it opens up the door to anxiety disorders and sleep disorders and stress disorders amongst many other.

What we learn from the numbers is this. MDD is a disease that has plagued society and will continue to do so. Its prevalence is steadily increasing and affecting more and more different people from different backgrounds.

It’s especially prevalent in the workplace. It could have been managed better in the past, but employers only started taking note when they were presented with the data that shows them just how much depression is affecting their businesses.

Still, not enough is being done to deal with the issue.

The trend is that going to work means you’re tired, stressed and overwhelmed. Stories about burned out employees only increase and there seems to be little to no involvement at times from managers to help mitigate the crisis.

Something needs to be done.

For starters, it is of the utmost importance that we catch it early on. Much like any disease, it gets worse with time passing by having been left untreated, so it’s important to take note of signs or symptoms of depression in any employee in the workplace. According to the WHO, these are the ones to look out for:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low self-worth
  • Loss of interest
  • Prolonged bad mood
  • Reduced energy
  • Lack of concentration

When these symptoms are present and cannot be explained by any physiological or external factor, it’s highly probable the person suffers from a form of MDD and must be checked.

Secondly, mental health issues must be more openly talked about in the workplace. Often times workers don’t divulge any information about their horrid mental state due to fears, rational ones, that they might jeopardize their job if they do so.

Employers must provide a safe environment for their people to be able to address their health without fear of being let go out of an inhuman look at the employee as nothing more than a cog in the machine that needs replacement.

The unfortunate use of this data is what makes people fear talking about their MDD related issues at work. Employers find ways to get rid of their suffering workers using the excuse of their reduced productivity.

So lastly, this practice must end at once. HR representatives must be vigilant in protecting their workers from this kind of abuse at the workplace.

In the end, nothing matters more than your wellbeing. Your mental health is and should always be your number one priority. Life doesn’t help us really in that regard, but it’s our right to fight against that, and it is our right to go to work without it being an added burden to our already burdened shoulders and minds.

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