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Work Productivity May Provide Clues to Depression Recovery

Depressed man sitting on his bedAccording to a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, clinicians should monitor work productivity to assess whether people undergoing treatment for depression may need additional treatment and services. The study found that early improvements in worker productivity could predict depression remission.

Work Productivity: Key to Depression Remission?

To assess the connection between depression and workplace productivity, researchers used the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment self-reporting tool with 331 workers. Each of the workers was enrolled in the Combining Medications to Enhance Depression Outcomes trial and had previously been diagnosed with major depression. Participants had similar levels of depression and productivity impairment at the beginning of the study.

Researchers measured worker productivity during the first six weeks of treatment with medication. They then divided participants into three groups: those whose productivity had greatly improved, those who saw no improvements in productivity, and those who experienced minimal productivity improvements.

The researchers assessed depression symptoms three months and seven months after the study’s beginning and found workers who had robust early improvements in depression were 3-5 times more likely than the other groups to experience full remission of their depression symptoms. The researchers believe the other two groups with less pronounced productivity improvements may benefit from additional treatment, such as psychotherapy or increased physical exercise (both of which have been shown to reduce depression symptoms). They say these findings point to the value of workplace productivity as an early screening tool for the efficacy of depression treatments.

How Depression Affects Workplaces

Lost productivity at work usually accounts for the greatest share of depression’s economic burden. According to the University of Michigan Depression Center, 50% of workers with depression experience short-term disability. As of 2000, depression costs employers $44 billion annually due to lost productivity, and 81% of that is a direct result of poorer performance at work.

Research consistently supports the claim that employer health care costs decrease when workers get adequate depression treatment. For example, a 2000 study published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry found people whose depression improved over 12 months had reduced health care costs and were less likely to take time off work.

The World Health Organization reports depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with 350 million people across the globe experiencing symptoms.


  1. Depression. (2016, April). Retrieved from
  2. Depression and lost productivity. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Jha, M. K., Minhajuddin, A., Greer, T. L., Carmody, T., Rush, A. J., & Trivedi, M. H. (2016). Early improvement in work productivity predicts future clinical course in depressed outpatients: Findings from the CO-MED trial. American Journal of Psychiatry. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16020176
  4. Simon, G. E., Revicki, D., Heiligenstein, J., Grothaus, L., Vonkorff, M., Katon, W. J., & Hylan, T. R. (2000). Recovery from depression, work productivity, and health care costs among primary care patients. General Hospital Psychiatry,22(3), 153-162. doi:10.1016/s0163-8343(00)00072-4
  5. Work productivity is key factor in assessing recovery of depressed patients. (2016, August 15). Retrieved from

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  • Glynnis

    August 22nd, 2016 at 11:31 AM

    This is a really brilliant find! I am confident that for people who are depressed one of the first places that you can begin to see that manifest itself will be at their jobs and work. Things that once held a great deal of importance to them in their lives will now be seen as fruitless. If they are showing improvement and interest in work again then there is a greater chance that they are feeling better all around.

  • Brenda

    August 22nd, 2016 at 3:34 PM

    When someone is truly happy in life you will find that this happiness shines through on so many multiple levels.

    And when they are unhappy the same thing can be said as well.

    Depression is an illness tat is not very easy to hide from the people who love you because they are going to know and recognize quickly when you are not up to your usual standards of accomplishment. It makes sense that looking to one’s work would be a place that you would also immediately start seeing when someone could be struggling, as w ell as when they could be making progress and healing.

  • Blaise

    August 23rd, 2016 at 9:30 AM

    My boss was depressed and that was like a cloud hanging over the entire office while he was sick and still trying to work

  • Allan

    August 24th, 2016 at 2:34 PM

    No one may want to say it but it could also just indicate how bored you are with your job too

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