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BMJ. 2007 October 6; 335(7622): 692.
PMCID: PMC2001077
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Treating depression is good for business

About one in six US adults gets depressed at some point in their life. Many of them become ill during their working lives, which costs the US economy billions of dollars a year in lost productivity. Large companies clearly have a financial stake in improving the mental health of their employees, although few take much of an interest at the moment.

A recent trial may help attract their attention. An intervention that screened workers in 16 US companies helped them access treatment for depression, monitored their progress, and provided psychotherapy over the telephone. The intervention had a measurable effect on working hours and job retention as well as symptoms. Employees in the intervention group worked two hours extra a week on average compared with controls who had usual care. They were also more likely to get better (relative odds of recovery 1.4, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.0) and to keep their jobs (92.6% v 88.0%; odds ratio 1.7, 1.1 to 3.3). The trial lasted for one year.

The authors have yet to conduct a detailed analysis of costs. But at a glance the sums look favourable. The intervention saved about $1800 (£890; €1270) per worker each year and cost $100-$400 per worker each year.

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