Depression in Working Adults: Comparing the Costs and Health Outcomes of Working When Ill

Fiona Cocker, Jan M. Nicholson, Nicholas Graves, Brian Oldenburg, Andrew J. Palmer, Angela Martin, Jenn Scott, Alison Venn, Kristy Sanderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Working through a depressive illness can improve mental health but also carries risks and costs from reduced concentration, fatigue, and poor on-the-job performance. However, evidence-based recommendations for managing work attendance decisions, which benefit individuals and employers, are lacking. Therefore, this study has compared the costs and health outcomes of short-term absenteeism versus working while ill (“presenteeism”) amongst employed Australians reporting lifetime major depression.

Methods: Cohort simulation using state-transition Markov models simulated movement of a hypothetical cohort of workers, reporting lifetime major depression, between health states over one- and five-years according to probabilities derived from a quality epidemiological data source and existing clinical literature. Model outcomes were health service and employment-related costs, and quality-adjusted-life-years (QALYs), captured for absenteeism relative to presenteeism, and stratified by occupation (blue versus white-collar).

Results: Per employee with depression, absenteeism produced higher mean costs than presenteeism over one- and five-years ($42,573/5-years for absenteeism, $37,791/5-years for presenteeism). However, overlapping confidence intervals rendered differences non-significant. Employment-related costs (lost productive time, job turnover), and antidepressant medication and service use costs of absenteeism and presenteeism were significantly higher for white-collar workers. Health outcomes differed for absenteeism versus presenteeism amongst white-collar workers only.

Conclusions: Costs and health outcomes for absenteeism and presenteeism were not significantly different; service use costs excepted. Significant variation by occupation type was identified. These findings provide the first occupation-specific cost evidence which can be used by clinicians, employees, and employers to review their management of depression-related work attendance, and may suggest encouraging employees to continue working is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere105430
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2014

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