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What Does Research Tell Us About Depression, Job Performance, and Work Productivity?

Lerner, Debra MS, PhD; Henke, Rachel Mosher PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2008 - Volume 50 - Issue 4 - p 401-410
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31816bae50
Original Articles

Objective: To assess the work impact of depression.

Methods: A review of research articles published since 2002, reporting on the magnitude and/or nature of depression's impact on work.

Results: This research is characterized by the use of three outcome indicators (employment status, absenteeism, and presenteeism metrics) and three research designs (population-based, workplace, and clinical). The literature documents that, compared to non-depressed individuals, those with depression have more unemployment, absences, and at-work performance deficits. Methodological variation makes it difficult to determine the magnitude of these differences. Additionally, the research suggests that the work impact of depression is related to symptom severity and that symptom relief only partly reduces the adverse work outcomes of depression.

Conclusions: Research has contributed to knowledge of the multidimensional work impact of depression. Further developing intervention research is an important next step.

Supplemental Digital Content is Available in the Text.

From the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies (Dr Lerner), Tufts-New England Medical Center, Boston, Mass; and Department of Health Care Policy (Dr Henke), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

Dr. Henke is supported by NIMH T32 MH019733-14.

Address correspondence to: Debra Lerner, MS, PhD, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts-New England Medical Center, NEMC 345, 750 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111. E-mail:

©2008The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine