One in 10 Employees in Europe Have Missed Work Due to Depression - More Than 21,000 Working Days Lost, According to New Survey

BRUSSELS, October 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

  • Depression causes an average of 36 lost working days per episode
  • Managers report need for better legislation, including training and counselling to tackle the problem

One in 10 working people surveyed in Europe have taken time off work because of depression, with an average of 36 days lost per episode of depression, according to a new survey from the European Depression Association.   This equates to more than 21,000 days of lost working time in this group of people.  However despite the size of the problem, nearly one in three managers reported they had no formal support or resources to deal with employees who have depression, and 43% called for better policies and legislation to protect employees.

To view the Multimedia News Release, please click:

Commenting on the results, MEP Stephen Hughes said, "Depression in the workplace is an employment and societal challenge that is causing serious damage and which requires attention and action from the European Union. The inclusion of depression in the workplace in the new European Commission Strategy for Health and Safety at Work, backed up in the coming two years with legislative action, would represent excellent progress towards protecting Europe's workers more effectively and ultimately contributing to economic and social prosperity."

Depression is the predominant mental health challenge among working-age people and more than 30 million European citizens will suffer from depression at some point in their life.[1]   The IDEA survey (Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit) polled more than 7,000 people in Europe and found that 20% of respondents had received a diagnosis of depression at some point.  The highest rate was in GB (26%) and the lowest in Italy (12%).  Among workers experiencing depression, those in Germany (61%), Denmark (60%), and GB (58%) were most likely to take time off work, while those in Turkey were the least likely to take time off (25%).  

The costs of depression were estimated at €92 billion in 2010 in the EU, with lost productivity due to absenteeism (taking time off work) and presenteeism (being present at work while ill) representing over 50% of all costs related to depression.[1] In the IDEA survey the average number of days taken off work during the last episode of depression was 36 days, with Germany and GB having the highest (41 days) and Italy (23 days) having the lowest.  

Despite the high rates of absenteeism due to depression, one in four of those experiencing depression stated they did not tell their employer about their problem.  Of these, one in three said they felt it would put their job at risk in the current economic climate.  

The cognitive symptoms of depression (concentration difficulties, indecisiveness, and/or forgetfulness) cause significant impairment in work function and productivity,[2] and are present 94% of the time in an episode of depression.[3] However, the survey shows that awareness of these symptoms is poor:  when asked to identify signs of depression only 33% said forgetfulness, 44% indecisiveness and 57% trouble concentrating. In contrast 88% identified low mood or sadness as a sign of depression.

Among the managers surveyed, approximately one in three reported there was no formal support in place to help them deal with depression in employees.  The lack of support was highest in Germany (44%) and lowest in Turkey (10%).  Managers in GB (55%) were most likely to have support from their HR department, while managers in Turkey were most likely to receive support from a medical professional (79%).

When asked what is needed to support employees with depression in the workplace, managers most often cited more counselling services and better government legislation and policies.  In Turkey managers were most likely to call for better legislation (55%) and training for all employees (63%).   Managers in GB and Turkey wanted better counselling services (56% and 53%), while German managers prioritised line manager training (53%).

Dr Vincenzo Costigliola, President of the European Depression Association said "The results of the IDEA survey show that much needs to be done in raising awareness and supporting employees and employers in recognising and managing depression in the workplace. We ask policymakers to consider the impact of depression on the workforce and charge them with addressing depression and workers and workplace safety."

Full results of the IDEA survey will be published in 2013.

Notes for Editors

The European Depression Association (EDA)

EDA is an alliance of organisations, patients, researchers and healthcare professionals from 17 countries across Europe.    Each year on October 1, EDA organises European Depression Day to raise awareness of depression across Europe. The theme of this year's campaign is 'Depression and the Workplace'.  On October 1, a group of policy experts and stakeholders will meet in Brussels to continue discussions on how best to address the burden and impact of depression in the workplace in Europe. This meeting follows the Expert Roundtable on Depression in the Workplace held on 5 June 2012 by MEP Stephen Hughes. The overall aim of the meeting is to secure binding EU legislation on depression in the workplace.

The EDA is sponsored by the European Medical Association, International Scientific Association, Centro Lombardo Recuperi Industriali, L.A. Nuova Stampa and H. Lundbeck A/S.

@The_EDA: #EUdepressionday

About the IDEA (Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit) Survey

The research was conducted using Ipsos MORI's online panel, between 30 August and 19 September 2012.  Questions were asked online of 7,065 adults aged 16-64 who are workers and managers, or have worked and managed within the last 12 months, across Europe. Results are weighted to ensure the sample was representative of this profile. Full data tables are available upon request. The survey was supported by an educational grant from H. Lundbeck A/S.


1. Olesen J, Gustavsson A, Svensson M, et al. The economic cost of brain disorders in Europe. Eur J Neurol 2012; 19:155-162

2. Greer TL, Kurian BT, Trivedi MH. Defining and measuring functional recovery from depression. CNS Drugs. 2010; 24(4):267-284

3. Conradi HJ, Ormel J, de Jonge P. Presence of individual (residual) symptoms during depressive episodes and periods of remission: a 3-year prospective study. Psychol Med. 2011; 41:1165-1174 


SOURCE European Depression Association (EDA)