Study: Depression Costs Employers $44 Billion

August 5, 2003 ( - Depression among US workers is costing companies $44 billion in lost productivity.

Overall, depression, which was found to afflict 9.4% of US workers, cost employers in employee downtime associated with work absences and reduced performance time. Where workers unaffected by depression are expected to lose 1.5 hours per week in productivity for these reasons, depression pushes the total up to a loss of 5.6 productive hours a week, according to a study by AdvancePCS.

Looking at a standard 40-hour workweek, 14% of a depressed worker’s time is unproductive. “We found substantially more lost work time among individuals who are currently suffering from depression than previous studies would indicate,” said Walter Stewart, lead author of the Cost of Lost Productive Work Time Due to Depressive Disorders in the U.S. Workforce study and director of the AdvancePCS Center for Work and Health at the time the research was conducted. “Most of the lost productive time, 81%, occurs while employees are at work. Until now, this has been an invisible cost to employers.”

The major impact though appears to be made by only a minority of workers. Workers with major depression and physical symptoms account for a disproportionate share of the lost productive time. On the whole, the study found less prevalence of depression among those with higher education levels and a higher prevalence in relation to lower annual salary levels.

The Depressive Disorders Study is a sub-survey of the American Productivity Audit. The Depressive Disorders Study and the related estimates are based on the sub-sample of 3,351 audit interviews conducted between May 20 and July 11, 2002. A total of 1,127 workers also completed a supplemental interview, including questions on depressive disorders, and a medical care and treatment history. The breakdown for this group was 692 working participants who screened positive for depression and 435 who screened negative. The excess lost productive time, or LPT, costs from depression were derived as the difference in LPT among individuals with depression minus the expected LPT in the absence of depression, projected to the US workforce.