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Health & Fitness

Support from workplace can reduce depressed employees’ days off

Data collected from an international survey done in over 15 countries including France, Germany, USA, Canada, Brazil, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Turkey indicates if managerial support is provided to employees who might be suffering from depression. The findings of the survey were published recently in the journal BMH Open. The research team hopes that the findings will push workplaces to create active policies on mental health and similar concerns.

Many people experience depression at least once in their work lives, some even report experiencing recurring bouts of depression- but mental health is still a taboo in a lot of workplaces. Many of those struggling with depression do not often admit that they are indeed dealing with a mental illness. Some fear isolation form colleagues and thus do not often seek help.

For the study, researchers analyzed data collected previously from an international audit (Global IDEA) of nearly 16,000 employees and their managers to see if the attitude of managers towards the mental health of their employees affected the productivity of the employees and the number of days taken off by them. The data was diverse and was collected from employees and managers that had varying levels of income (GDP) and came from different cultural backgrounds.

Background information of employees like age, gender, academic qualifications and size of the company they were working for was also included in the survey. They were also asked to report whether or not they had been formally diagnosed with depression, if yes, how many days they had taken off from work to deal with it. Managers were
questioned about how involved they were in discussions about mental helath of their employees and if they ever offreed to help their employees deal with depression or choose to totally ignore the issue.

The completed survey questionnaires were filled in by nearly 1000 employees from each country involved and around 10 percent of these respondents were managers. The findings indicated that the responses in the survey depended on the country- with 5 percent in China to 39 percent in France. When all the data was combined, researchers saw that nearly 3000 employees reported that they were depressed. About 72.6% of all employees questioned worked full time and about 50% of them worked in companies that considerably smaller, i.e they had around 1-50 employees.

Data also suggested that in Asian countries, managers generally did not care too much about the mental health of their employees and tended to avoid talking about employees who struggled with depression and were also less likely to provide active support to their subordinates. Japanese and south Korean managers were the least likely ones to offer help, while managers in Mexico and South Africa were most likely to extend a helping hand.Managers in Denmark, Canada, and Great Britain weren’t afraid to talk with their employees about depression, while Asian managers were the most likely to avoid talking about depression and other similar mental health concerns.

Results showed that living in a country with higher GDP also affected rates of abseenteism and presenteism of the employees- with countries with a higher number of managers who avoided talking about mental health concerns having a high rate of abseenteism, while on the other hand countries where managers were actively involved and offered help saw their employees turning up to work more.

Highly educated employees took more days off for dealing with their diagnosis while people who were less educated in comparison, took considerably less time off of work. Company size also influenced the rates of absenteeism and presenteism- with people working for larger companies taking less time off than those who worked for smaller companies. The research team noted that the study is observational and thus does not establish cause, and since the rates of responses were quite low- it makes establishing new workplace policies and understanding the severity of symptoms quite difficult.

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