Survey Finds Link Between Depression and Longer Disability

April 26, 2006 ( - Depression lengthens the time it takes for people to recover from disabilities in some cases, according to the findings of a new survey.

Depressed people, for example, diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experienced an average of 63% longer disability durations than members with IBS who were not depressed, according to an analysis of claims data from health care benefits provider, Aetna. Additionally, back pain claims resulted in disability durations that were on average 25% longer for claimants with depression than for members with back pain who were not depressed.

The results were drawn an analysis of claims data for 36,747 Aetna members between 2002 to 2004 for members with short- and long-term disability plans that demonstrate a connection between depression and the amount of time a disability keeps a person out of work.

The survey took into consideration diagnoses such as IBS, chronic fatigue, pregnancy, hypertension, back pain, morbid obesity and carpal tunnel syndrome, and found that the duration of the disability is longer if the patient is also depressed.

“These results show a natural link among health, behavioral health and disability events,” said Pat Farrell, head of Aetna Group Insurance, in a press release. “Aetna is in the unique position of being able to integrate medical, disability and behavioral health to help members get back to work faster so that they can lead healthier and more productive lives.”