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The association of worker productivity and mental health: a review of the literature

Wayne N. Burton (University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Alyssa B. Schultz (The University of Michigan Health Management Research Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)
Chin‐Yu Chen (The University of Michigan Health Management Research Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)
Dee W. Edington (The University of Michigan Health Management Research Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Article publication date: 27 June 2008

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Abstract

Purpose

Depression and other mental health disorders have a large impact on the quality of life and productivity of millions of individuals worldwide. For employers, mental health disorders are associated with increased health care costs as well as productivity losses in the form of absenteeism, short‐term disability absences and reduced on‐the‐job productivity‐known as presenteeism. The purpose of this paper is to review the association of worker productivity and mental health.

Design/methodology/approach

This review summarizes the literature on the prevalence of mental health conditions among working adults, and the association between these disorders and productivity. Finally, the impact of interventions or workplace policies on the productivity of those suffering with mental health conditions is covered and recommendations for employers are suggested.

Findings

Depressive disorders are relatively common in most workforces compared to other mental health conditions. The majority of studies on mental health and productivity have been conducted as part of nationwide surveys or in patient populations rather than worksites. The majority of studies show associations between mental health conditions and absenteeism (particularly short‐term disability absences). When presenteeism is measured by a validated questionnaire, results show that depression significantly impacts on‐the‐job productivity (presenteeism). Studies also indicate that the treatment expenditures for employees with depression may be offset by reductions in absenteeism, disability and on the job productivity losses.

Originality/value

Workplace policies and benefits which support employees suffering with mental health disorders and provide access to evidenced‐based care adhering to best practice guidelines may improve the quality of life of employees and lead to reduced absenteeism, disability and lost productivity.

Keywords

Citation

Burton, W.N., Schultz, A.B., Chen, C. and Edington, D.W. (2008), "The association of worker productivity and mental health: a review of the literature", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 78-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/17538350810893883

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited