Job-stress related depression is costing the economy a staggering $730m a year, says a University of Melbourne report funded by VicHealth. It found the $730m job strain price tag included lost productivity, employee replacement costs, government-subsidised mental health services and medications for depression. It equated to $11.8b over an average working lifetime, with the biggest loss accruing to employers.
The report revealed an $85m absenteeism cost for depressed workers who didn’t have access to paid sick leave. But researcher Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne said the figures underestimated the true costs of depression in the workplace, as other factors that increased the depression risks, such as bullying, sexual harassment and job insecurity, weren’t included in the study. Nor did it include the cost of mental health-related workers’ compensation claims.
“These figures represent a significant burden on the Australian economy that is preventable by improving job quality,” LaMontagne said. “There’s always been legal and ethical reasons for employers to address poor working conditions and to support staff, but these new findings add an economic incentive as well.”
VicHealth CEO Todd Harper said the report raised questions about workplace culture in Australia. “We need to develop strategies that can be applied in all workplaces to make them healthier, happier and more productive environments that nurture good health rather than cause ill-health,” he said.
Work-related depression preventable
The report concluded depression caused by stressful working conditions was common and preventable. It found most of the costs associated with depression among working people affected employers, mainly due to lost productivity and employee replacement costs.
“Employers would be the main economic beneficiaries of improving workplace conditions, through reduced turnover and improved productivity,” it said. “There’s a need for more research to develop workplace health promotion approaches that address stressful work environments.”
Effective strategies to prevent and control job stress existed but weren’t widely used.
“Integrated job stress and workplace mental health promotion programs hold the greatest promise to reduce stressful working conditions and address depression and other common mental disorders,” the report concluded. “For example, beyondblue’s workplace program.”
Source: Thomson Reuters, HR Report, 4 November 2010. For the full issue, sign up for a FREE TRIAL of HR Report and other Thomson Reuters premium news services. Click here to sign up.
To subscribe to HR Report, click here.