26 September 2007

Treating blues saves money

A work-based programme to help company employees with depression improves not only clinical well-being but also workplace productivity, a study suggests.

A work-based outreach and care programme to help company employees with depression improves not only clinical well-being but also workplace productivity, a study suggests.

As reported in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, employees seeking treatment for depression who participated in the programme had fewer depressive symptoms, logged more hours on the job, and had greater job retention than similar employees receiving usual care.

A positive return
"The financial value of the latter to employers in terms of recovered hiring, training, and salary costs suggests that many employers would experience a positive return on investment from outreach and enhanced treatment of depressed workers," the study team writes.

Dr Philip S. Wang from the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland and colleagues evaluated the effects of one such programme on workplace outcomes among employees covered by a managed behavioural health plan, who screened positive for depression.

Of that group, 303 employees agreed to participate in the programme, which largely consisted of telephone contact with care managers. The programme encouraged workers to enter outpatient care (psychotherapy and/or antidepressant drug therapy); monitored the quality and continuity of treatment; and attempted to improve treatment via interaction with providers.

Another 300 employees who were reluctant to participate in the programme served as a comparison group of "controls" and received usual care.

Assessments at 6 and 12 months showed that depression severity scores were significantly lower in the outreach care group than in the usual care group, and recovery rates were higher at 26 percent vs. 18 percent, respectively.

Extra two hours per week
In addition, employees in the outreach group worked an average of 2 more hours per week than workers in the control group, Wang and colleagues report.

The authors of an accompanying editorial add that the "monetary value of the increased work time under the program exceeded the direct intervention costs and likely exceeded, or was within, the range of cost increases due to greater mental health specialty use under the intervention."

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, September 26, 2007. - (Reuters Health)

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Depression Centre

September 2007


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