Thursday, September 7, 2006

NIH: Bipolar Depression Takes Heavy Toll on Workplace Productivity; Workplace Supports Essential

Medicallogo Thanks to the Editor of Blawg Review for pointing out this press release from the National Institute of Health (NIH) from September 1st highlighting the especially destructive impact bipolar disease has on the productivity of workers, even when compared to clinical depression (also called major depressive disorder).

From the press release:

Bipolar disorder costs twice as much in lost productivity as major depressive  disorder, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has found. Each U.S. worker with bipolar disorder averaged 65.5 lost workdays in a year, compared to 27.2 for major depression.  Even though major depression is more than six times as prevalent, bipolar disorder costs the U.S. workplace nearly half as much — a disproportionately high $14.1 billion annually. Researchers traced the higher toll mostly to bipolar disorder’s more severe depressive episodes rather than to its agitated manic periods. The study by Drs. Ronald Kessler, Philip Wang, Harvard University, and colleagues, is among two on mood disorders in the workplace published in the September 2006 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.          

Their study is the first to distinguish the impact of depressive episodes due to bipolar disorder from those due to major depressive disorder on the workplace. It is based on one-year data from 3378 employed respondents to the National Co-morbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative household survey of 9,282 U.S. adults, conducted in 2001-2003.

In a related study, "[researchers] suggest[ed] that health professionals pay more attention to recovery of work function and that workplace supports be developed, perhaps through employee assistance programs and worksite occupational health clinics, to help depressed patients better manage job demands."

And clearly such accommodations in the workplace for workers suffering from bipolar disorder would be consistent with employer obligations under Title I of the ADA.  The important point seems to be that if employers are proactive in developing support systems for these workers, there is a better chance that these employees will remain able to perform the essential functions of their jobs. 

Finally, and speaking to employers in terms of the bottom line, investing in such support systems makes sense financially because these programs will help cut down on the amount of loss days and allow bipolars sufferers to remain productive members of the workforce.


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I suffer from clinical depression/bi-polar and had a serous attack during Sept/October 2002. I am currently on various meds to stabilize my condition but still have some difficulty on occasion. I worked for a large biotech in Cambridge when this occurred and informed only and direct supervisor and the project manager but upon my return, the entire research department consisting of about 300 people were aware of my condition. The company is now rehiring at the same level within the field and at my level. I am in the biotechnology field in the Boston/Cambridge, Ma. area. I was laid off in November 2005 and it took me nearly five months to find another job, which I took only to pay the bills.
The biotech industry is somewhat incestuous in this area due the fact that everyone knows someone within all the various companies. I have had a couple of interviews, which went wonderfully, but my publication list includes my former supervisor who authored or co-authored my last several publications. There is constant turnover in this business word travels fast. Everyone I have been able to stay in contact with has found positions at Merck, Amgen and Novartis to name a few.
I have consistently received very good performance ratings as well as merit bonuses for exceeding goals. Due to the indiscretion of my former PM and/or supervisor I have been blacklisted at this point due to my condition.

Posted by: labster | Sep 19, 2006 10:48:32 AM

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