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Bosses, another big reason why you need to discuss depression openly

Bosses, another big reason why you need to discuss depression openly


More than 70% of people with mental illness actively conceal their mental illness from others, and most of those who conceal do so because they fear discrimination when looking for or keeping a job.

In new research by Sara Evans-Lacko and Martin Knapp, 16,018 employees and managers across 15 diverse countries (including China, South Korea, and the US), were studied on this topic.

The aim? To identify how managerial support can impact employees with self-reported depression - in terms of absenteeism at work (i.e. number of days taken off work because of depression and presenteeism).

On average, countries with a greater prevalence of managers saying that they avoided talking to the employee about depression was associated with employees with depression taking more days off work - i.e. the lesser managers talked about it, the more time depressed employees requested off work.

This phenomenon was most evident in South Korea, China, Italy, Turkey and Japan respectively, as showed in the table below:


At the same time, countries with a greater prevalence of managers actively offering help to employees with depression was associated with higher levels of presenteeism.

Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and Brazil, rounded off the top five countries where this phenomenon of managers offering employees help with depression was most observed.


Further results and analysis by the researchers:

  • Depression experienced by a large proportion of the workforce and typically associated with high costs to employers.
  • However, manager reactions to employees with depression can reflect broad organisational features that directly relate to employee productivity - thus strengthening the case for actively developing policies and practices for managers support an employee with depression.
  • Additionally, certain personal characteristics may make individuals prone to take more days off work (absenteeism) and/or reduce workplace performance (presenteeism).
  • This suggests that additional support might be provided to more vulnerable subgroups to address this difference in experience.

ALSO READ: Depression is the number one mental health issue faced by expats

For the purpose of this survey, the following definitions were used:

  • Absenteeism was assessed using the following question: ‘The last time you experienced depression, how many working days did you have to take off work because of your depression’.
  • Presenteeism was assessed using WHO Health and Work Performance Questionnaire.

Lead image / Stock Unlimited Tables / BMJ Publishing Group 

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