Depression and Workplace Injuries

Depression is often an overlooked consequence of workplace injuries. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s one of the leading causes of disease or injury all over the world affecting both men and women. In 2010, the resulting economic burden totaled $210.5 billion in the United States. In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the CDC, it suggests that from 2009-2012, roughly 7.6% of Americans ages 12 and older battled depression. In addition, the 43% of those dealing with severe depressive symptoms also experienced difficulties in other parts of their lives.

The workplace is no exception from the impact of depression. Loss of work, lack of presence, and decreased productivity are some of the effects of depression. It is stressed by the CDC that these individuals are at a higher risk for substance abuse, smoking or other mental health disorders. Employees who suffered an injury in the workplace in combination with depression face additional challenges. In fact, depression can be a result of an on-the-job injury. This can impact workers’ compensation and an employee’s transition back to work after injury.

Risk of depression is worsened when coupled with loss of functional work capacity and chronic pain from injury. Even though depression can have far-reaching effects and can manifest from on-the-job injury, workers’ compensation benefits might not cover the treatment needed. Employees are then less likely to receive appropriate treatment and time away from work becomes prolonged. Employers must address depression in the workplace to avoid these complications.

Medical Director of Healthworks Division, Carolinas HealthCare System, Lawrence Raymond, MD stresses employers to pay attention to employees. This is the best method to identifying and preventing workplace depression. If an injured employee returns to work, be aware of the following warning signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty adjusting after returning to the workplace,
  • Changes in appearance or attention to grooming,
  • Appears listless or sad,
  • Decline in productivity, or
  • Struggles with timelines on the job.

Supervisors are recommended to take action even before an injured employee returns to work. This may include: utilizing other coworkers to look out for the returning employee, providing education about depression, and create support programs. As an employer, always be invested, aware, and ready to reach out to your employees.