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Depression and performance at work

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While many people may feel depressed once in a while, they are still able to do their jobs. For some, however, depression can affect various aspects of their lives and have a serious impact on their performance at work.

About half a million Canadian workers aged 25 to 64 (4% of all such workers) experienced an episode of depression in the year preceding the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey. Most of them felt that their symptoms had interfered with their ability to work.

Those at greatest risk of depression are white-collar workers and sales and service workers. As in the total population, depression is nearly twice as frequent among working women as among working men.

About four out of five workers who experienced depression during the year prior to the survey reported that their symptoms affected their ability to work, at least to some extent. One out of five described their symptoms as very severe.

Workers who experienced depression said they were completely unable to work or perform their normal activities for an average of 32 days during the year prior to the 2002 survey. They were also more likely than workers with no history of depression to report a number of specific problems at work—including reduced activity at work because of a long-term health condition, at least one mental-health disability day in the previous two weeks, and absence from work in the previous week.

The survey found a correlation between worker depression and the presence of chronic health conditions, drug or alcohol dependency or anxiety disorders. But it did not find a correlation between excess weight and worker depression.