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Psychosocial 1 and Mental health
  1. P. C. Koopmans1,
  2. C. A. M. Roelen2,
  3. J. W. Groothoff3
  1. 1
    ArboNed Groningen
  2. 2
    ArboNed Zwolle
  3. 3University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen

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    The impact of mental illness on overall health and productivity is substantial throughout the world. Depression is one of the most common mental disorders. According to the World Health Organization, depression will be the leading cause of illness-related morbidity by the year 2010. The aim of this study was to determine the duration of sickness absence due to depressive symptoms in the Dutch working population.


    In this observational study of 15% of the Dutch working population, all absence episodes (n = 9910) starting between April 2002 and November 2005 diagnosed as depression by the occupational physician were selected. For these episodes, Kaplan-Meier survival curves were computed.


    The mean (and median) duration of sickness absence due to depressive symptoms was 200 (179) days in men and 213 (201) days in women. Men more often returned to work and women more often reached the disability pension date. Older employees had longer absence durations. Depressive symptoms had an estimated rate of chronicity (1 year of absence) of 24%. Employees in educational and public services, commercial services and health care had the longest duration of absence due to depressive symptoms. Employees in large sized companies and men in the industrial sector had the shortest absence episodes.


    Workers with a depressive disorder are absent for a long time. Explanations for the long duration are discussed. Persons with lower grade depressive moods may not report complaints at all and stay at work. If absent, they might have returned to work before they are invited to visit the occupational physician. It is possible that occupational physicians diagnose a depressive disorder in a later phase of illness when the symptoms are more apparent or after the worker is referred to a psychiatrist. The duration of absence due to depressive disorder exceeds the estimation of a depressive episode of 3 months …

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