Bipolar Disorder Exacts Twice Depression's Toll in Workplace
Researchers have shown that bipolar disorders cost employers twice as much in lost productivity as major depressive disorder.
Akinso: It used to be known as "manic depression." It's a condition that takes a toll not only on the person who suffers from it, but on that person's workplace. Researchers have shown that bipolar disorders cost employers twice as much in lost productivity as major depressive disorder. According to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, American workers with bipolar disorder averaged 65.5 lost workdays in a year, compared to 27.2 for major depression. Even though major depression is more than six times as prevalent, bipolar disorder costs the U.S. workplace a disproportionately high $14.1 billion annually according to Dr. Phillip Wang, Director of the NIMH Division of Services and Intervention Research.
Wang: Bipolar disorder can consist of both depressive episodes it also has episodes of mania or hypomania. What we found is that the episodes of depression that can occur both with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder they're more severe and more persistent. They last longer in folks who have bipolar disorder and that accounts for why bipolar disorder leads to greater lost work performance relative to major depression.
Akinso: The researchers measured the persistence of the disorders by asking respondents how many days during the past year they experienced episodes of mood disorder. They judged the severity based on symptoms during a worst month. Factoring in lost work days due to absence or poor function on the job combined with salary data yielded an estimate of lost productivity. Doctor Wang said episodes related to bipolar disorder are sometimes incorrectly treated as major depressive disorder.
Wang: If you only assess someone for depression, in other words lets say a worker comes in and reports depressive symptoms like low energy, low mood, symptoms like that, if you only assess them for depression you might miss that the depressive symptoms are actually part of bipolar illness. In that case clinicians might mistakenly initiate an antidepressant medication, for example. The danger in that situation is that someone who truly has bipolar disorder, if you initiate an antidepressant it could trigger, actually, a manic episode. What can be done about that? The clinician should be careful to not just assume that someone who's reporting depressive symptoms has depression they should also screen for bipolar disorder and make sure that's not actually the underline cause of the person's depressive symptoms.
Akinso: Dr. Wang said since antidepressants can trigger the onset of mania, workplace programs should first rule out the possibility that a depressive episode may be due to bipolar disorder. He added future effectiveness trials could gauge the return on investment for employers offering coordinated evaluations and treatment for both mood disorders. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Wally Akinso
Sound Bite: Dr. Phillip Wang
Topic: Bipolar Disorder