European survey – depression is a major problem in the workplace

The IDEA survey (Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit) from the European Depression Association (EDA), which polled more than 7,000 people in seven European countries (including the UK), has produced some startling results.

Photo by Pink Sherbert Photography via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Depression is the predominant mental health challenge among working-age people and more than 30 million European citizens will suffer from depression at some point in their lives[i]. The cognitive symptoms of depression, which are present 94% of the time in an episode of depression[ii] cause significant impairment in work function and productivity[iii]. However, the survey shows that awareness of these symptoms is poor. These symptoms include:

  • concentration difficulties;
  • indecisiveness;
  • forgetfulness.

The impact of depression in the workplace – some figures

Sickness absence

  • One in 10 working people surveyed in Europe (including the UK) have taken time off work because of depression and 20% of those surveyed had been diagnosed with depression at some time in their lives.
  • On average, an episode of depression causes a person to be off work for 36 days (41 days in the UK), which equates to more than 21,000 days of lost working time amongst those surveyed.
  • The costs of depression were estimated at €92 billion in 2010 in the EU, with lost productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism (being present at work while ill) representing over 50% of those costsi.

How depression is dealt with in the workplace

  • Despite the high rates of absenteeism due to depression, one in four of those experiencing depression stated they did not tell their employer about their problem. Of these, one in three said they felt it would put their job at risk in the current economic climate.
  • Nearly one in three managers reported they had no formal support or resources to deal with employees who have depression, and 43% called for better policies and legislation to protect employees.

Commenting on the results of the survey Dr Vincenzo Costigliola, President of the European Depression Association, said:

“The results of the IDEA survey show that much needs to be done in raising awareness and supporting employees and employers in recognising and managing depression in the workplace. We ask policymakers to consider the impact of depression on the workforce and charge them with addressing depression and workers and workplace safety.”

For help with supporting employees in your organisation who are suffering from depression or other mental health issues, contact the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44 to speak to an occupational health professional.


[i] Olesen J, Gustavsson A, Svensson M, et al. The economic cost of brain disorders in Europe.Eur J Neurol 2012; 19:155-162

[ii] Conradi HJ, Ormel J, de Jonge P. Presence of individual (residual) symptoms during depressive episodes and periods of remission: a 3-year prospective study. Psychol Med. 2011; 41:1165-1174

[iii] Greer TL, Kurian BT, Trivedi MH. Defining and measuring functional recovery from depression. CNS Drugs. 2010;24(4):267-284

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