The Hidden Cost of Depression

Tired at Work

Feeling depressed at work sucks. I’ve been there. I was unmotivated and lacked any inspiration at many of my jobs.

In fact, I got so low that I wrote a book called 92 Things to Do Besides Commit Suicide.

I never published it, but it was a great exercise in creativity.

You may suffer from depression or you might know a co-worker who is depressed. You can tell if they are depressed by noticing if they’ve had any major mood swings, lethargic attitude, or seem disengaged from their work.

Because you spend so much time with them each week, it’s your co-workers who are going to notice if you or another co-worker is depressed .

I read about a study that came out in 2010 called Despite Treatment Depressed Workers Have Decreased Productivity, and I found this quote in it:

“They estimate annual short-term disability costs at about $1,000 per worker with depression and $1,700 per worker with severe depression – much higher than for common diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Given that the CDC estimates the incidence of depression as 1 in 10, and that the US Census estimates there are about 315 million Americans of whom 75% are over the age of 18, that means around 235 million adults could be or are depressed.  Granted, maybe 25% of them are actually retired (the statistics on this are harder to find).  That still means that 175 MILLION working people have annual short-term disability costs of $1,000 to $1,700 per year.

That’s a lot of moola.

You might be thinking, “Why should I care?”

I think you should care, not just for the financial cost to your company’s bottom line and the country’s GDP, but for the health of your co-worker, and especially for your own health.

How does a co-worker’s depression affect you personally?  It’s like this. When a fellow co-worker is happy, you are more likely to be happy.  According to Karen Kaplin of the LA Times:

“Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself.”

– excerpt from Your whole world smiles with you

The reverse is also true – being around someone who is depressed can bring you down as well. You’ve seen it happen. You are having a good day, then an energy sucker drops by and just saps you of all your positive energy.

It’s tough working with someone who is depressed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Talk with these people and see if you can help them or get them to seek professional help themselves. Talk to their managers about finding ways to help them (or yourself if it’s you that is depressed). By getting this problem out into the open, you will be helping them, helping the company, and helping yourself.

Have you ever dealt with a co-worker with depression?  How did it affect their productivity at work and your relationship with them, and how did you try to handle it?

Or have you ever had trouble with depression yourself?  How did it affect your work, and how did you deal with it?

If you are willing to enter a comment, please feel free to use a pseudonym and a discrete email address to protect your anonymity.

Thank you for sharing.