Underperformance in the Workplace: Depression May Be Cause

KathyMillerOasisDepression is debilitating to the individual and distressing to the family, but it’s also costly to the workplace.

Depression is a major cause of disability, absenteeism, presenteeism (attending work while sick), and productivity loss among working-age adults, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC statistics illuminate the magnitude of the problem:

  • In a given year, 18.8 million American adults (9.5% of the adult population) will suffer from a depressive illness.
  • Approximately 80 percent of persons with depression reported some level of functional impairment because of their depression, and 27 percent reported serious difficulties in work and home life.
  • Only 29 percent of all persons with depression reported contacting a mental health professional in the past year, and with severe depression, only 39 percent reported contact.
  • In a 3-month period, patients with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity.  
  • Depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year at a cost to employers of $17 to $44 billion.


Symptoms of depression can be difficult to recognize in the workplace since they tend to be hidden by employees when at work. Workers are often worried about the stigma attached to having a psychiatric disorder and therefore are hesitant to seek treatment. They are afraid they could lose their job. 

Managers frequently are not trained on how to identify workers who are struggling or what to do if the situation comes to light.  As a result, mental health disorders frequently go unrecognized and untreated. For the individual, this can be damaging to their overall health and to their career. For employers, productivity can suffer. 

On the other hand, adequate treatment can reduce symptoms for the individual and result in improved job performance. To change the climate at work so employees will seek help, it requires a change in the attitudes of others regarding the nature of mental disorders. The understanding that is necessary to produce this shift in attitude takes time and effort.

Studies cited by the Harvard Health Publication (Feb. 2010)  indicate that when depression is addressed and adequately treated, job-related accidents, sick days, and employee turnover are reduced and hours worked and employee productivity go up.

We at Oasis Mental Health invite you to learn more about depression’s role in underperformance in both children and adults at our free community forum at 7 p.m. June 18 at the Severna Park Community Center, 623 Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, in Severna Park.

Dr. Brian Richards, a member of Oasis’ team of experienced child, adolescent and adult psychiatrists, will cover symptoms, treatment, and techniques for managing depression and answer questions from the audience.

This event, the second in a three-lecture series, is our way of thanking the community for supporting Oasis Mental Health for the past 10 years. I hope to see you June 18!

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Oasis: The Center for Mental Health
Call for an appointment: 410.571.0888
On the web: www.oasismentalhealth.net