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An easy-to-use on-line tool can help employers get an idea of the time and money lost due to depression among employees. The Depression Calculator (www.depressioncalculator.com) not only calculates the costs of the disease, but also computes the financial benefits of treating employees with depression. A study published in 2003 in the Journal of the American Medical Association1 (JAMA) showed that depressed workers lost 5.1 hours per week more than workers without depression. Additionally, employers lost $3.1 billion in productivity per year. The JAMA study indicated that fewer than 30% of the employees studied were using antidepressant medications, which the authors cited as proof that there is a great deal of room for improvement when it comes to treatment rates.
Developed by The HSM Group Ltd., a consulting firm in Scottsdale, AZ, and the Washington, DC-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the calculator asks users to input values unique to their own business, and provides estimated rates of lost wages and productivity, and then supplies rates of diagnosis, successful treatment, and treatment costs to reflect overall savings to the employer when treatment is successfully pursued. (See chart.)
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), employees suffering from depression sustain average annual medical costs that are $2,000-$3,000 higher than those of nondepressed employees. The combination of missed days, lower productivity when on the job, and other associated issues costs the U.S. economy approximately $80 billion annually, it estimates.
The calculator estimates the incidence of depression and its impact on a company’s work force, based on the company’s size, type of industry, location, and the age/gender breakdown of employees. It computes the expected number of days each year that employees will be absent or suffer low productivity due to their depression and calculates the associated costs to a business. Finally, it projects the net savings the company can expect, after accounting for the cost of treatment, if employees obtain treatment. An employer can change the key assumptions so that the calculation best reflects the characteristics of that particular work force.
1. Stewart WF. Cost of lost productive work time among U.S. workers with depression. JAMA 2003; 289:3,135-3,144.
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