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Treating Workers' Depression Helps Companies' Bottom Line

Initial costs are more than recouped over time, study finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 5, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Employers would save themselves money by implementing programs to spot and treat depression in workers, a new U.S. study finds.

Reporting in the December issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers at Harvard University used data from dozens of previous studies to simulate expenses for a hypothetical group of 40-year-old workers diagnosed with depression.

The results suggest that offering a minimal level of enhanced care to workers with depression would lead to cumulative savings to employers of $2,898 per 1,000 employees over five years.

While this kind of program would initially result in increased use of mental health services by workers, it would save employers money in the long term by reducing worker absenteeism and turnover costs, the study authors said.

"Depression exacts economic costs totaling tens of billions of dollars annually in the United States, mostly from lost work productivity," study co-author Dr. Philip Wang said in a prepared statement.

"Yet we're not making the most of available services and treatments. Our study calculates what employers' return on their investment would be if they purchased enhanced depression treatment programs for their workers," he said.

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

More information

The American Psychiatric Association has more about depression.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, news release, Dec. 4, 2006
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