A new study of 8,000 employees from Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South Africa and the USA reveals that workplace depression is a major problem across different cultures and economies, with “wide and devastating” consequences for thousands of organizations worldwide and collectively costing more than US$246 billion a year.
Most research on workplace depression has been done in Western, high-income countries, and little is known about how the relationship between depression and workplace productivity varies across countries. Labor market circumstances and culture may influence the relationship between depression and workplace productivity.
Although the impact of depression on workplace productivity is universal, there were significant inter-country differences in terms of the prevalence of employees with depression taking time off work, number of days taken off, level of presenteeism and ratio of presenteeism to absenteeism. Individuals living in a country with a higher prevalence of depression diagnoses had higher levels of presenteeism. It may be that prevalence of depression diagnoses also reflects comfort in seeking treatment and or disclosing one’s diagnosis. Previous research has shown that a cultural context which is more open and accepting of mental illness is associated with higher rates of help-seeking, antidepressant use and empowerment, and lower rates of self-stigma and suicide among people with mental illness
These findings suggest that the impact of depression in the workplace is considerable across all countries, both in absolute monetary terms and in relation to proportion of country (gross domestic product) GDP. Overall, depression is an issue deserving much greater attention, regardless of a country’s economic development, national income or culture.