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Manager support helps reduce absenteeism among depressed workers: study

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Photo: Tempura/iStockphoto

London — Workers who experience depression may be less prone to miss work when managers show greater sensitivity to their mental health and well-being, recent research from the London School of Economics and Political Science shows.

Researchers examined survey responses of 16,018 employees and their managers in 15 countries. They looked at workers who previously had been diagnosed with depression, managerial approaches to discussing depression and work performance. Findings showed that employees with depression who lived in countries where managers largely avoided discussing workers’ depression took an extra 4.1 days off work.

Other findings:

  • 67 percent of respondents in Mexico said their managers had offered to assist workers who experience depression, the highest figure among the countries studied. At 16 percent, Japan had the lowest percentage of supportive managers. The figure was 48 percent in the United States.
  • 30.2 percent of respondents in South Korea and 27 percent of those in China said their managers avoided discussing depression with them. Denmark (2 percent), Canada (3) and Great Britain (3.2) had the lowest totals, while the figure was 6 percent in the United States.

“Support is needed for managers to directly support employees to feel open and comfortable in discussing mental health issues,” the researchers said. “This is in addition to programs that effectively facilitate early intervention practices and support for and recognition of depression among employees, as well as clear transition and referral pathways for employees who need to take time off and for those returning to work.”

The study was published online July 23 in the journal BMJ Open.

In March, the Institute for Work and Health published a guide intended to aid “the entire workplace” in assisting workers who cope with depression or those who support them.

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