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Bipolar Disorder Takes Heavy Toll on Workplace

Condition costs U.S. businesses $14 billion per year, study finds

FRIDAY, Sept. 1, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Bipolar disorder costs U.S. businesses twice as much in lost productivity than major depression, a new study finds.

Each U.S. worker with bipolar disorder averaged 65.5 lost workdays a year, compared to 27.2 annual lost work days for those with major depression, concludes a study in the September issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Overall, major depression is six times more common than bipolar disorder, but bipolar disorder costs U.S. businesses nearly half as much as major depression, at more than $14 billion a year, the study said.

The findings are based on a year of data collected from nearly 3,400 workers who took part in a national survey. Workers were asked how many days in the previous year they had experienced a mood-disorder episode. Lost productivity was calculated by combining work days lost due to absence or poor functioning on the job and salary data.

About one percent of U.S. workers experience bipolar disorder in a year, compared to 6.4 percent who battle major depression. However, the researchers estimated that bipolar disorder accounts for 96.2 million lost workdays a year and $14.1 billion in lost salary/lost production, compared to 225 million lost workdays and $36.6 billon in lost salary/lost production for major depression.

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Another NIMH-funded study in the same issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry found that depression can impair many aspects of job performance, and these effects linger even after depression symptoms have improved.

Researchers assessed the job performance and productivity of 286 workers with depression and dysthymia, 93 with rheumatoid arthritis, and 193 healthy workers for 18 months.

Dysthymia is a form of depression marked by consistently low moods that aren't as extreme as in other kinds of depression.

Job performance among the depressed workers did improve as their symptoms eased, but even "clinically improved" depressed workers did worse than healthy workers on mental, interpersonal, time management, output and physical tasks, the study found.

Compared to healthy workers, those with rheumatoid arthritis did worse only on physical tasks.

Health professionals need to pay more attention to recovery of work function in people with depression, the study authors said. They also suggested that workplace support programs are needed to help depressed workers better manage their job demands.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about bipolar disorder.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, news release, Sept. 1, 2006
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