The Depression of Economics

According to the World Federation for Mental Health, depression will be the leading disability in the world by 2030. Like any other disease, depression comes with an economic impact to those suffering and the medical and governmental entities that are tasked with their care.

America spends $210 billion on depression annually. That figure doubles the amount spent on cancer research, which topped at $100 billion and will only grow as the prevalence of this disease increases.

Recent findings show that for every dollar spent on treating depression, an additional $4.70 is spent on the direct and indirect costs of related illness, which also has great breadth. Post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and physical ailments like migraines and sleep disorders take up much of the funding that is labeled under the umbrella of depression.

In a 2009 study done by the University of Washington, the costs of depression amongst those with diabetes and congestive heart failure were measured. There was a group of roughly 2,000 patients who had not been diagnosed with depression, 1,000 who hadn't been diagnosed, but screen positive when given a questionnaire and were taking medication, and 11,700 who were not depressed at all. This study found that of the three groups, those who were diagnosed with depression spent astronomically more money on their health. Specifically, those with diagnosed depression spent $22,960, those not diagnosed spent but taking medication spent $14,365, and those without depression spent $11,956.

These numbers are staggering due solely to the fact that those with diagnosed depression spent nearly twice as much on their health care annually as those who were depression-free. This may still seem pale in comparison to the costs of other diseases, but if depression is eventually the leading disease in the world then that is going to put a huge strain on millions of people.

With nearly 16 million Americans having depression, there are more than just the personal costs. It's been estimated that absenteeism from work due to depression costs the U.S. economy $51 billion in lost productivity and another $26 billion in direct treatment costs from employers. Depressed people lose 5.6 hours of productive work per week, and use 1.5 to 3.2 more disability days per month than those who aren't depressed.  The estimated lost wages for those suffering from depression over a lifetime is around $300,000, which is a 35% decrease in lifetime income compared to those without depression.

Depression is unique because it is one of the few diseases in America to have a workplace stigma. We're taught to work long hours, sacrifice vacation days, and value productivity above all else. Someone with depression, a disease one in five Americans has, may feel weak for coming forward with their counterculture disease.

The silver lining to this is that depression treatment is usually successful. According to the National Health Institute, more than 80% of patients suffering from depression show improvement of symptoms within six weeks of treatment. But, roughly two out of every three people that suffer from depression refuse to seek help. Correlated with that, 50% of depression treatment failures are due to medical noncompliance.

Because of how much this hurts the bottom line of companies, they should be incentivized to spend more on programs to help employees cope with depression.  These Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are designed to erase the stigma of depression in the workforce. Topics in EAPs usually revolve around how taking care of yourself will benefit your well-being in all aspects, and are used to treat more than just depression.

More than 97% of large scale companies have EAPs in place, but there is a stark gap in how often they're used. The stigma of asking for help again prevails, with only 5% of the employees at these large scale companies utilizing the EAPs when necessary.

Therefore, it is on the employee to search for help, with guidance from the company. When companies say "we" in their mission statements that includes employees, therefore they have to be willing to invest in the well-being of all employees. If we want production increase, a fatter bottom line, and most importantly personal well-being, then it is up to us to erase the stigma and get right.

Works Cited

Mental Health America. “Depression In The Workplace.” 2013. November 1.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. “Depression Statistics - Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.” 2017. Accessed July 11.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Depression | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” 2017. Accessed July 11.

American Psychiatric Association. “Employee Assistance Programs: An Often Overlooked Resource.” 2017. Accessed July 11.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” 2017. Accessed July 11.

Leonard, Kimberly. “Global Cancer Spending Reaches $100B.” 2017. Accessed July 11.

Greenberg, Paul E. 2017. “The Growing Economic Burden of Depression in the U.S.” Accessed July 11.

Holmes, Lindsay. 2016. “What Happens When Major Companies Take Mental Health Seriously.” Huffington Post, May 16, sec. Healthy Living.

Unutzer, Jurgen. “NIMH » Health Care Costs Much Higher for Older Adults with Depression Plus Other Medical Conditions.” 2017. Accessed July 11.

Ph.D, Robert Leahy. 2010. “The Cost of Depression.” October 30.

Haelle, Tara. “The Real Monthly Cost of Depression.” 2017. Accessed July 11. //

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