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October 2, 2012

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Managers ill-equipped to deal with staff depression

Workers in Britain are more likely than their European counterparts to be diagnosed with depression at some point in their life, a new survey has revealed.

Carried out by Mori on behalf of the European Depression Association, the Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit (IDEA) survey questioned more than 7000 people in seven European countries. It found that a fifth of respondents were diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, with Britain recording the highest rate (26 per cent), and Italy the lowest (12 per cent).

One in 10 working people surveyed said they have taken time off work because of the illness, with an average of 36 days lost per episode of depression. This equates to more than 21,000 days of lost working time for those surveyed.

Among workers experiencing depression, those in Germany (61 per cent), Denmark (60 per cent) and Britain (58 per cent) were most inclined to be absent from work at some point, while those in Turkey were the least likely to take time off (25 per cent).

Despite these high rates of absenteeism, one in four of those who had experienced depression said they did not tell their employer about their condition. A third of this group admitted they felt it would jeopardise their job in the current economic climate.

Commenting on the results, MEP Stephen Hughes said: “Depression in the workplace is an employment and societal challenge that is causing serious damage and which requires attention and action from the EU. The inclusion of depression in the workplace in the new European Commission Strategy for Health and Safety at Work, backed up in the coming two years with legislative action, would represent excellent progress towards protecting Europe’s workers more effectively and, ultimately, contributing to economic and social prosperity.”

Managers surveyed said they wanted more help at a practical and legislative level to deal with the problem. Nearly one in three managers reported a lack of formal support or resources to handle employees who have depression, and 43 per cent called for better policies and legislation to protect employees.

The lack of support was highest in Germany (44 per cent) and lowest in Turkey (10 per cent). HR was the most likely source of support for managers in Britain (55 per cent), while managers in Turkey were most likely to receive support from a medical professional (79 per cent).

Said Dr Vincenzo Costigliola, president of the European Depression Association: “The results of the survey show that much needs to be done in raising awareness and supporting employees and employers in recognising and managing depression in the workplace.”

Well-being expert Professor Cary Cooper said more focus should also be placed on prevention. Writing in his blog, he said: “What organisations need to do is to carry out more well-being/stress audits, using well-researched and robust psychometrics, . . to collect data from employees about how they perceive their particular workplace and organisation. Each organisation then needs to take action based on the findings of the report (which sounds obvious but is too often forgotten) and work with employees to identify the solutions to the particular issues that emerge.”

Full results of the IDEA survey will be published next year.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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11 years ago

*Lack* of support for depression : Highest: Germany, Lowest: Turkey

Inclined to be absent from work: Highest: Germany Lowest: Turkey