Economic Impact of Depression

Hilary Tuttle


November 1, 2013


Happy workers make healthier—and more profitable-—employees. According to the new working paper “The Effects of Depression on Labor Market Outcomes,” depression increases annual work loss days by about 33%. In the United States alone, this amounts to productivity losses of between $700 million and $1.4 billion per year—a number that quickly climbs when looking at the overall cost of depression. “Beyond employees who personally suffer from depression, there’s time lost to care for loved ones,” said study co-author Sam Zuvekas, a researcher at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “There are a lot of familial and societal-wide impacts when you start totaling up these costs, and estimates get into the tens of billions of dollars.” But there is plenty of room for employers to help. According to Zuvekas, “The biggest thing employers can do is related to health insurance coverage. If employees have to pay a lot out of pocket, there is evidence they may be deterred from using mental health treatment.” Medical policies that incorporate mental health coverage can reduce the impact of depression on both employees and businesses by improving productivity and reducing absenteeism and workplace conflict.

Hilary Tuttle is managing editor of Risk Management.