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Employment leaders to tackle depression burden

21 October 2013

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Depression is costing UK businesses £1,000 per employee per year, a survey has revealed. 

A quarter of people in the UK (26%) have been diagnosed with depression, according to a report released by the European Depression Association’s Impact of Depression in Europe Audit. 

In the UK there were 29.8 million people in employment aged 16 and over, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show. Out of these, at least 4.5 million people could have taken time off due to depression. 

The economic cost of mental illness in England has been estimated at £105.2 billion each year, including loss of services, productivity and reduced quality of life. 

And an average of 36 days are taken off work per episode of depression. 

Professor Martin Knapp, from the London School of Economics Health and Social Care Centre said: “Across the European working population this could mean something approaching one billion working days lost to depression.  

“The economic impact is potentially enormous, and this does not take into consideration the reduced productivity of people who keep on working while they are depressed.” 

The cognitive symptoms of depression – concentration difficulties, indecisiveness, and/or forgetfulness – are present up to 94% of the time in an episode of depression and cause significant impairment in work function. People with depression report on average 5.6 hours per week of total health-related lost productivity time more than those without depression.

Some of the largest employers in Europe, including the Royal Mail Group, Barclays and BT Group plc have formed a committee in the hopes of helping to reduce the impact of depression. 

Dr Paul Litchfield, BT Group plc chief medical officer and Target Depression in the Workplace steering committee advisor said: “Mental health is the dominant workplace health issue of our time.  

“Work can either be beneficial or harmful to mental health and employers can make a major contribution to the wellbeing of society by their actions.”