A Depressing Figure

$23 billion.

That’s how much absenteeism due to depression costs U.S. organizations in annual lost productivity, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data collected between Jan. 2 2011 and Dec. 30, 2012.

Gallup surveyed 237,615 full-time employees (those who work at least 30 hours per week) and 66,010 part-time employees during this time period.

Approximately 12 percent of the U.S. working population having been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life; and those suffering from depression miss an estimated 68 million additional days of work each year than their counterparts who have not been depressed, according to the study.

Gallup calculated unhealthy days using 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 estimate how unhealthy days per month translate into missed work days, Gallup asked workers this question: “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 work days in the last month did you not work due to poor health?”

Nationally, one in eight U.S. workers have been diagnosed with depression, Gallup says, “yielding tens of millions in the workforce who have either grappled with emotional health issues in the past or do so today. Furthermore, 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.”

While proven strategies to combat depression in the workplace include the allocation of resources for early identification and treatment, employee assistance programs, efforts to culturally de-stigmatize depression and its treatment in the workplace, and management education for addressing depression and its causes, Gallup also recommends engaging 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.