Impact of primary care depression intervention on employment and workplace conflict outcomes: is value added?

J Ment Health Policy Econ. 2002 Mar;5(1):43-9.


Background: Depression causes significant functional impairment in sufferers and often leads to adverse employment outcomes for working individuals. Recovery from depression has been associated with better employment outcomes at one year.

Aims of the study: The study s goals were to assess a primary care depression intervention s impact on subsequent employment and workplace conflict outcomes in employed patients with depression.

Methods: In 1996-1997, the study enrolled 262 employed patients with depression from twelve primary care practices located across ten U.S. states; 219 (84%) of the patients were followed at one year. Intent-to-treat analyses assessing intervention effects on subsequent employment and workplace conflict were conducted using logistic regression models controlling for individual clinical and sociodemographic characteristics, job classification and local employment conditions. To meet criteria for subsequent employment, persons working full-time at baseline had to report they were working full-time at follow-up and persons working part-time at baseline had to report working part-/full-time at follow-up. Workplace conflict was measured by asking patients employed at follow-up whether, in the past year, they had arguments or other difficulties with people at work .

Results: Findings showed that 92.1% of intervention patients met criteria for subsequent employment at one year, versus 82.0% of usual care patients (c2=4.42, p=.04). Intervention patients were less likely than usual care patients to report workplace conflict in the year following baseline (8.1% vs. 18.9%, respectively; c2=4.11; p=.04). The intervention s effect on subsequent employment was not mediated by its effect on workplace conflict.

Discussion: The intervention significantly improved employment outcomes and reduced workplace conflict in depressed, employed persons at one year. Economic implications for employers related to reduced turnover costs, for workers related to retained earnings, and for governments related to reduced unemployment expenditures and increased tax receipts may be considerable.

Limitations: Although similar primary care depression interventions have been shown to produce comparable effects on subsequent employment at one year, replications in larger samples of depressed, employed patients in different economic climates may be necessary to increase the generalizability and precision of estimates.

Implications for health care provision and use: Primary care interventions that enhance depression treatment and improve clinical outcomes can contribute meaningful added value to society by improving employment and workplace outcomes.

Implications for health policies: Federal/state governments may realize economic benefits from reduced unemployment expenditures and increased tax receipts should primary care depression interventions that improve employment outcomes be broadly disseminated. Policy initiatives to increase the dissemination of such interventions may be an innovative approach for improving labor force participation by depressed individuals.

Implications for further research: Formal cost-benefit analyses are needed to explore whether economic benefits to societal stakeholders from these and other labor outcomes equal or exceed the incremental costs of disseminating similar primary care interventions nationally. Researchers in other nations may wish to consider investigating the impact primary care depression interventions might have on employment and workplace outcomes in their countries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / economics
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Health Policy / economics
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / economics
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Occupational Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Care Team / economics
  • Primary Health Care* / economics
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational* / economics
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Workplace