By Jordan Asher, chief clinical officer at MissionPoint Health Partners

Chances are you can readily name someone you know who suffers from major depression—perhaps even someone you’ve worked with. It turns out the number of American adults battling the condition exceeds the populations of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined. It’s no wonder the disease’s impact has permeated critical aspects of our society, including businesses, where employee performance is so closely linked to the profitability, culture, and health of the organization.

Beyond the burden depression imposes on its sufferers—crippling their emotions, cognitive ability, relationships, productivity, and overall health—the disease is also incredibly draining to financial resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in three months, employees with major depression will accrue, on average, 4.8 missed workdays and 11.5 days of lower productivity. Overall, eight out of 10 depression sufferers report some level of functional impairment because of their depression, but only three in 10 have sought a mental health professional in the past year.

Rates of depression do vary by occupation and industry, however. According to the CDC, occupations with the highest rates of full-time workers experiencing major depression in the past year are personal care and service, and food preparation and serving-related occupations. On the low end (fewest workers battling major depression in the past year) were engineering, architecture, and surveying; life, physical, and social science; and installation, maintenance, and repair.

Stressors typically include high job demands, low job control, and lack of social support in the workplace. In an interview with The Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, Lawson Dusin, a behavioral science researcher, noted that high rates of depression are associated with jobs that “require frequent or difficult interactions with the public or clients, have high levels of stress, and low levels of physical activity.”

In terms of medical treatment—which can come with a big price tag to employers—treating a patient with depression costs around $4,000 more each year than treating individuals without the condition, reported a study by MissionPoint Health Partners, a population health management company that advocates a whole-person approach to patient care. The MissionPoint study also revealed you can treat three patients without depression for about the same cost as treating two patients with depression.

Despite more widespread awareness and empathy for depression sufferers, their numbers continues to rise, shooting up 153 percent from 2000 to 2010 (the most recent data we have, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry). That explosion of major depression cases caused the total estimated national cost to snowball from $83.1 to $210.5 billion in that decade.

Signs of depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, include:

  • Persistent sadness or anxiety
  • Continuous pessimism or irritability
  • Lost interest in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Restlessness, trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Recurring aches, pains, or digestive problems without a clear cause, or that do not ease with treatment

The good news, as more data becomes available, is that a growing number of businesses and healthcare organizations are wising up to the fact that addressing major depression and associated diseases is crucial not only to bring relief and quality of life to sufferers, but also to reduce the financial load for everyone.

To that end, a number of approaches have proven effective:

  1. Increased depression screenings, with healthcare providers catching issues earlier and connecting patients to resources.
  2. Greater education of beneficiaries by employers and insurers about available treatments.
  3. Encouraging individuals to talk with their physicians to find effective therapies.

Professional intervention can go a long way: Eight in 10 depression sufferers have their symptoms improve when seeking treatment, and half of unsuccessful treatments would become successful if those individuals receive help with compliance.

The takeaway? In your daily work, you may come across workers who are struggling with depression or other mental issues that are either undiagnosed or not managed adequately. Left untreated, those issues will invariably hinder the employee’s performance, and the performance of your organization.

Astute HR leaders realize that equipping employees with the information and access to resources they need toward good mental health isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also great for their bottom line.

About Dr Jordan Asher:

Asher Jordan 6

Dr. Jordan Asher is MissionPoint’s Chief Clinical Officer and Chief
Innovation Officer. His role concentrates on creating innovative
models of care delivery as well as providing national thought
leadership directed towards the future of healthcare. Jordan is also
responsible for the clinical oversight of the care models that serve as
the foundation for MissionPoint. With his focus on clinical innovation
and new value-based healthcare models, Jordan’s work is aimed at
delivering on MissionPoint’s promise to improve the health of diverse
communities across the nation.
Jordan also is currently serving as Assistant Dean and Interim Clinical Chair of Medicine at University
of Tennessee Health Science Center, and oversees 5 residency programs in conjunction with Saint
Thomas Health in Nashville, TN. In this unique position, Jordan works to expand the educational
component of these programs to incorporate population health and value-based healthcare.
Before joining MissionPoint, Jordan served as the Physician Executive for Saint Thomas Health
in Nashville, where he led the implementation and design of physician alignment strategies.
Prior to his role at Saint Thomas Health, he served as Medical Director of a large multi-specialty group,
while practicing Internal Medicine specializing in Hypertension.
Jordan holds an MD from Vanderbilt University, where he also did his Internal Medicine residency.
Jordan also holds a Master’s of Science in Medical Management from the University of Texas,
Dallas and a graduate Certificate in Formation for Catholic Healthcare Ministry Leadership from the
Aquinas Institute of Theology and Ascension Health. He is a member of the American Association for
Physician Leadership and the American Society of Hypertension.