Depression and the Impact on Productivity in the Workplace: Findings from a South African Survey on Depression in the Workplace
Objectives: The World Health Organization predicts the rise of the global burden of depression to become the leading cause of disability by 2030. The study aimed to 1) address a gap in the literature in terms of baseline data for assessing the burden and impact of depression in the South African workplace, and 2) quantify the links between depression, cognitive dysfunction, absenteeism and presenteeism by means of the Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit (IDEA) online survey.
Methods: 1061 employed adults in South Africa were recruited for the IDEA online survey. Self-reported answers were recorded for various demographic variables, diagnosis of depression, number of days taken off for depression (absenteeism), and work performance ratings and behaviours while working with depression (presenteeism). The responses pertaining to absenteeism and presenteeism were analysed according to the presence or absence of cognitive dysfunction.
Results: 278 or 26.2% of respondents reported an experience of diagnosed depression. Depression was significantly associated with being older, female, divorced and working in a small company compared to a large company. Cognitive dysfunction while depressed had a highly significant association with presenteeism, as shown by a substantial drop in subjective ratings of job performance (p < 0.001) and significantly poorer working behaviours. Respondents without cognitive dysfunction were absent from work for fewer days than those with cognitive dysfunction (13.2 versus 21.5 days) but this did not reach significance.
Conclusion: Presenteeism is a more pressing concern than absenteeism in the South African workplace. There is a vital need to improve employees’ access to quality treatment preferably through programs based on integrated care models.
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