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Depression in the Workplace

Depression Can Hurt Your Bottom Line

Depression is a widespread and costly illness. 70% of all depressed Canadians are in the workforce and could potentially be working for your business (PDF, 28 of 88). When depressed employees go undetected and untreated, their symptoms can have more of an organizational impact than you may think. Here are a few ways depression costs employers in terms of time and money:

  • lowered productivity
  • increased absenteeism
  • increased medical costs
  • increased disability costs and claims
  • costs of hiring and training other employees
  • poor work performance
  • poor morale and increased job dissatisfaction among other workers

Source: Depression in the Workplace: Costs and Barriers to Treatment, 2001


Signs of Depression in the Workplace

  • arriving late for work or absent
  • losing interest in work
  • lowered productivity
  • behaving out-of-character
  • having difficultly cooperating with co-workers

If any of your employees have been demonstrating these signs for more than a few weeks, depression may be taking a toll on their (and your organization’s) health and well-being.

Depression often goes unrecognized and unaddressed in the workplace. Because of the confusion and stigma surrounding the causes and cures, many sufferers never seek help and many companies neglect approaching the issue with staff.


Depression in Peel

The Peel Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association reports that approximately 1 out of 4 Peel residents will experience one or more mental disorders over their lifetime. They estimate that workplaces in Peel spend $9 million every year on mental illness.


How the Workplace Can Help

Research indicates that depression prevention and treatment is a worthwhile investment resulting in cost savings as well as greater productivity (Goldburg & Steury, 2001). With counselling, support and/or medication 80% of depressed individuals can recover and return to normal activities. Workplaces can improve how they approach and manage depression through:

  • providing education and training to supervisors and managers
  • promoting Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Encourage staff to make use of this resource and stress confidentiality. Ensure the EAP addresses mental illness and provides counselling and effective resources
  • scheduling presentations on the topic of depression and other mental health issues
  • assisting employees in managing their work and family responsibilities by promoting work-life balance
  • organizing workplace wellness activities such as lunch & learns, providing an on-site gym or fitness programs, host a health fair, offering healthy cafeteria/vending machine food options
  • fulfilling the duty to accommodate the needs of depressed employees under the Ontario Human Rights Code
  • keeping all information confidential
  • looking for ways to reduce stressors within the workplace


Encourage Employees to Prevent or Manage Depression

It is normal to feel sad or unhappy from time to time but when this feeling persists, becomes more severe and begins to interfere with daily life, it can develop into depression.

If an employee is experiencing symptoms of depression, it is strongly recommended that they seek professional help. Medication, counselling and other therapies are common treatments, but building a work environment that supports your employee’s health and wellness can go a long way in preventing and managing depression:


Facts & Stats

  • Canada spends $6 billion per year treating depression and “distress.” This is less than 6% of all public health care spending in the country. Even productivity costs were higher, at $8 billion per year.
  • Depression and anxiety in the workforce – the most common and often serious forms of mental illness – are a leading source of employee absence and disability – and productivity impairment.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability (PDF, page 27) in the labour force and, with heart disease, is on track to become the 21st century’s leading source of work years lost through disability and premature death.
  • By 2020, it is estimated by the World Health Organization that depression will be the second-leading cause of disability worldwide and will account for 14.4% (PDF, Page 152) of the disease burden.
  • Mental health accounts for 17% of Canadian workplace’s payroll costs
  • It is estimated that depression and other mental illnesses cost the Canadian economy approximately $33 billion per year (PDF, 152 of 154) when the symptoms of these disorders are taken into consideration
  • Cases of depression are concentrated among working adults in their prime earning years and in those who have had continuous service with one employer.


Additional Resources


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Revised: July 31, 2014


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