On 1 October, the European Depression Day, the European Depression Association released the results of a study according to which one in 10 employees in Europe has taken time off work because of depression, with an average of 36 days lost per episode of depression or more than 21,000 days of lost working time in this group of people.
According to the survey conducted among 7000 Europeans, the average number of days taken off work during the last episode of depression varied across Europe, with Germans and British taking the highest number (around 41 days) and Italians taking the lowest one- 23 days.
On the other hand, among the employees experiencing depression, Germans (61%), Danish (60%), and British (58%) were most likely to take time off work, while only 25% of Turkish respondents were inclined to do so.
In addition, the survey found out that nearly one in three managers had no formal support or resources to deal with employees who suffer from depression, while 43% of them called for better policies and legislation to protect employees. The lack of support was highest in Germany (44%) and lowest in Turkey (10%).
The cost of depression was estimated at €92 billion in 2010 in the EU, with lost productivity due to absenteeism (taking time off work) and presenteeism (being present at work while ill) representing over 50% of all costs related to depression.
Moreover, the survey found out that awareness of cognitive symptoms of depression was poor: only 33% identified forgetfulness, 44% indecisiveness and 57% trouble concentrating. In contrast 88% identified low mood or sadness as a sign of depression.
Depression is the predominant mental health challenge among working-age people and it is expected that more than 30 million European citizens will suffer from depression at some point in their life. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is one of the most debilitating conditions whose burden is predicted to become the greatest cause of disability by 2030.
Commenting on the aggravating consequences of depression, Dr Vincenzo Costigliola, President of the European Depression Association said: ‘The results of the IDEA survey show that much needs to be done in raising awareness and supporting employees and employers in recognising and managing depression in the workplace. We ask policymakers to consider the impact of depression on the workforce and charge them with addressing depression and workers and workplace safety’.
In early May, the EDA urged European policy-makers in an open letter to prioritize depression in all their policies and legislation affecting workers and workplace safety.