Here’s how much productivity you’re losing to staff depression


The term mental health has gained awareness among Hong Kongers in recent years but spotting and attending to depressed staff at the workplace is still a tough thing to do.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggested more than half of workers who report symptoms of depression do not perceive a need for treatment.

The results were based on telephone questionnaires and an online survey of 2,219 adults aged 18 to 65 years old living in Ontario.

The Canada-based study investigated barriers to mental healthcare experienced by workers and the resulting impact on productivity.

Lead author Dr. Carolyn Dewa, head of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, affiliated with the University of Toronto, said she discovered as many as 40% of participants experiencing significant depressive symptoms.

“Among the group that is depressed, 52.8% did not recognise a need to seek help. This suggests a significant number of workers who are experiencing symptoms of depression do not recognise they could benefit from help, and so do not ask for it,” she said in a press release.

Dewa and her team calculated workplace productivity losses due to depression could be reduced by 33% to nearly 50% if depressed workers are willing to to get treatment.

“Them not realising they need help has a significant impact on health and work productivity, and is an area where employers can focus efforts to reduce work productivity loss,” she said.

In addition to treatment needs, researchers also assessed attitudinal and structural barriers to accessing mental health services.

Attitudinal barriers included the stigma of mental illness and a belief that treatment is ineffective. Structural barriers included financial limitations and the difficulty in accessing appropriate mental healthcare.

When all three types of barriers were removed, researchers found that the loss of work productivity was reduced by nearly 50%.

“The most effective workplace mental health strategies will acknowledge the complexity of the problem and address all aspects in a comprehensive way,” said Dewa.

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