Workplace screening for depression and anxiety disorders

May 16, 2014

by David McDaid, Derek King and Michael Parsonage

Substantial potential economic costs arise for employers from productivity losses due to depression and anxiety in the workforce. The main costs occur due to staff absenteeism and presenteeism (lost productivity while at work). From the perspective of the public purse, failure to intervene also risks higher future health and social care costs.

Labour Force Survey data suggest that 11.4 million working days were lost in Britain in 2008/09 due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This equates to 27.3 days lost per affected worker. It is estimated that the average annual cost of lost employment in England attributable to an employee with depression is £7,230, and £6,850 for anxiety (2005/06 prices). If these conditions are not treated, additional costs are also likely to arise from related physical health problems. In the longer term, wider costs may also be incurred, such as from acute care, the impact on family members and premature death. There may also be additional recruitment and training costs for employers if their employees permanently withdraw from the workforce.

In 2011 we were asked by the Department of Health to identify and analyse the costs and economic payoffs of a range of interventions in the area of mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention, and to present this information in a way that would most helpfully support NHS and other commissioners in assessing the case for investment. As part of this report, we looked at the case for workplace screening for depression and anxiety disorders.

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