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The Clinical and Occupational Correlates of Work Productivity Loss Among Employed Patients With Depression

Lerner, Debra MS, PhD; Adler, David A. MD; Chang, Hong PhD; Berndt, Ernst R. PhD; Irish, Julie T. PhD; Lapitsky, Leueen MPH; Hood, Maggie Y. MPH; Reed, John MD; Rogers, William H. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2004 - Volume 46 - Issue 6 - p S46-S55
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000126684.82825.0a
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Employers who are developing strategies to reduce health-related productivity loss may benefit from aiming their interventions at the employees who need them most. We determined whether depression’s negative productivity impact varied with the type of work employees performed. Subjects (246 with depression and 143 controls) answered the Work Limitations Questionnaire and additional work questions. Occupational requirements were measured objectively. In multiple regression analyses, productivity was most influenced by depression severity (P < 0.01 in 5/5 models). However, certain occupations also significantly increased employee vulnerability to productivity loss. Losses increased when employees had occupations requiring proficiency in decision-making and communication and/or frequent customer contact (P < 0.05 in 3/5 models). The Work Limitations Questionnaire can help employers to reduce productivity loss by identifying health and productivity improvement priorities.

From the The Health Institute, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston (Drs Lerner, Adler, Chang, Irish, Ms Lapitsky, Ms Hood); Tufts School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences, Boston (Drs Lerner, Adler); Department of Psychiatry, Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston (Dr Adler); Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (Dr Berndt); and The Fallon Clinic, Worcester, Massachusetts (Dr Reed).

Address correspondence to: Debra Lerner, MS, PhD, The Health Institute, Tufts-New England Medical Center, 750 Washington Street, NEMC #345, Boston, MA 02111; E-mail:

©2004The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine