|Workplace Depression Screening, Outreach and
Enhanced Treatment Improves Productivity, Lowers Employer Costs
Enhanced and systematic efforts to identify and treat depression in
the workplace significantly improves employee health and productivity,
likely leading to lower costs overall for the employer, according
to a study published September 26, 2007, in the Journal of
the American Medical Association. The study was funded by
the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental
Previous studies have shown that employees who are depressed are
less productive and are absent more often. Other studies have shown
that organized screening and enhanced depression treatment can
significantly improve health. However, few employers have implemented
such programs, in part because their return on investment is unclear.
"This study provides compelling evidence of the importance
of workplace depression screening, outreach, and enhanced treatment," said
NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "It is in the interest
of workers' health and the company's bottom line to ensure depressed
employees are effectively treated."
Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H., director of NIMH's Division of Services
and Intervention Research, and colleagues conducted a trial with
604 employees enrolled in a managed behavioral health care plan,
all of whom were identified as having clinically significant depression
during a Web-based and telephone screening process. Half of the
participants were randomly assigned to an intervention that included
telephone support from a care manager and their choice of telephone
psychotherapy, in-person psychotherapy or antidepressant medication.
The other half of the participants were assigned to usual care,
which included feedback about their screening results, and advice
to seek care from their usual provider.
After 12 months, those in the intervention group were 40 percent
more likely to have recovered from their depression compared to
those in usual care. Participants in the intervention group also
were 70 percent more likely to stay employed, and worked an average
of two more hours per week than those in usual care.
Although the data did not lend itself to a comprehensive cost/benefit
analysis, the researchers noted that just the value of more hours
worked among those in the intervention group who were employed,
estimated at $1,800 per employee per year, far exceeds the $100-$400
per person costs associated with the type of outreach and intervention
program used in the study.
"For many people, a large chunk of their lives is devoted
to work. Depression affects not only a person's health, but also
his or her ability to work," noted Dr. Wang. "Employers
should consider a depression screening and intervention program
as a healthy, win-win investment."
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) mission is to reduce
the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research
on mind, brain, and behavior. More information is available at
the NIMH website, http://www.nimh.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.