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Depression in The Workplace

Clinical depression has become one of America's most costly illnesses. Left untreated, depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS to the US economy, costing over $51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs. Depression tends to affect people in their prime working years and may last a lifetime if untreated. More than 80 percent of people with clinical depression can be successfully treated. With early recognition, intervention, and support, most employees can overcome clinical depression and pick up where they left off.

Know The Facts

  • Depression ranks among the top three workplace problems for employee assistance professionals, following only family crisis and stressii.
  • 3% of total short term disability days are due to depressive disorders and in 76% of those cases, the employee was femaleiii.
  • In a study of First Chicago Corporations, depressive disorders accounted for more than half of all medical plan dollars paid for mental health problems. The amount for treatment of these claims was close to the amount spent on treatment for heart diseaseiv.
  • The annual economic cost of depression in 1995 was $600 per depressed worker. Nearly one-third of these costs are for treatment and 72% are costs related to absenteeism and lost productivity at workv.
  • Almost 15% of those suffering from severe depression will die by suicidevi.

Employees' Attitudes Towards Depression

  • Often times a depressed employee will not seek treatment because they fear the effect it will have on their job and they are concerned about confidentiality.
  • Many employees are also unaware they have depression or they fear their insurance is inadequate to cover costs.
  • Most employers will refer a depressed employee for help if they are aware of the symptoms. 64% of NMHA Survey respondents said they would refer an employee to an EAP health professional vii.

Learn to recognize the symptoms of clinical depression

No two people experience clinical depression in the same manner. Symptoms will vary in severity and duration among different people. Take a depression screening. See your doctor* if you experience five or more of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood.
  • Sleeping too little, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much.
  • Reduced appetite and/or weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain.
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Restlessness, irritability.
  • Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment (such as headaches, chronic pain or digestive disorders).
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
  • Thoughts of suicide or death.

* As a first step, a thorough physical examination may be recommended to rule out other illnesses.

Help Is Available

If you think you might be strugglng with a mental health condition, take a screening and get connected to supports.

To learn more visit our resources on: workplace wellness, depression, mental health treatment, or working with a provider may help you take the next steps.

You can also find more resources about supports at: Get Help, Finding Therapy, SAMHSA Treatment Locator, or contact a local MHA affliliate.


Check out MHA's Workplace Wellness program including information and training supports

Other Resources


i Greenberg PE, Kessler RC, Birnbaum HG, Leong SA, Lowe SW, Berglund PA, Corey-Lisle PK. The economic burden of depression in the United States: how did it change between 1990 and 2000? Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. December 2003 Dec;64(12):1465-75.
ii Employee Assistance Professionals Association 1996 Survey
iii First Chicago EAP Study, 1989-1992
iv JOM, Volume 36, Number 9, September 1994, p. 987
v Conti DJ, Burton, WN. Economic Impact of Depression in a Workplace. Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine. 1994; 36:983-988.
vi American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
vii National Mental Health Association, Americans Attitudes Towards Depression Survey, 1996