Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Depressed, Not Depressed or Unsure: Prevalence and the Relation to Well-Being across Sectors in South Africa

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Depressed, Not Depressed or Unsure: Prevalence and the Relation to Well-Being across Sectors in South Africa

Article excerpt


Depression is one of the most debilitating, widespread and costly health problems worldwide and it is the most common mental health problem in the Western world (McIntyre & O'Donovan, 2004). It affects approximately 340 million people worldwide and has a high prevalence in almost every society. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation (2000) predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second largest contributor to the global health burden.

Depression creates a huge economic burden for organisations and up to 69% of the costs brought about by depression can be described as indirect costs. Indirect costs are difficult to calculate and include lost productivity resulting from absenteeism, disability, premature mortality, and lost wages (Sullivan, 2005). Only 31% of the costs are direct costs, which include hospitalisation, treatment by physicians, drugs, therapy and other medical expenses (Sullivan, 2005). The per capita annual cost of depression in organisations is significantly more than that of hypertension or back problems, and is comparable to that of diabetes or heart disease (Druss, Rosenheck & Sledge, 2000). Greenberg, Kessler, Nells, Finkelstein and Berndt (1996) estimated that the workplace costs of depression were $51.5 billion in 2000 in the United States. Depression-related absenteeism was estimated to account for $36.2 billion of this total and depression-related presenteeism.

Apart from the huge economic burden that depression creates as well as the loss of labour it causes through both presenteeism and absenteeism, a number of researchers also indicated that depression affects an individual's work engagement levels, burnout levels and the occurrence of stress-related ill health symptoms (Demerouti, Bakker, Janssen & Schaufeli, 2001; Fruede, Seibt, Pech & Ullsperger, 2005; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004; Takai et al., 2009).

Employee work engagement is regarded as a vital driver of business success and competitive advantage. It is widely known that engaged employees have high levels of energy and are enthusiastic about their work (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004); moreover they are often fully immersed in their work, which causes the working day to seem faster to them (May, Gilson & Harter, 2004). Engaged employees exercise influence over events that affect their lives and because of their positive attitude and high activity levels, they create their own positive feedback, in terms of appreciation, recognition, and success (Schaufeli et al., 2001). Furthermore, work engagement is directly linked to organisational outcomes affecting employee retention, productivity and loyalty whilst it is also a key link to customer satisfaction, company reputation and overall stakeholder value (Lockwood, 2007). According to Hakanen, Schaufeli, and Ahola (2008), work engagement and depression correlate negatively. It can therefore be expected that employees suffering from depression might experience lower work engagement levels.

Burnout is a negative work-related well-being state. Employees who suffer from burnout are exhausted, cynical and feel ineffective (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001). Exhaustion interferes with effectiveness and it is difficult for an employee to gain a sense of accomplishment when he or she feels exhausted. Schaufeli, Taris and Van Rhenen (2008) established a definitive relationship between burnout and depression, implying that employees who experience depression might also experience burnout. The causal effect between burnout and depression is, however, unclear. Some studies have found that burnout predicts depression (Ahola et al., 2005; Toppinen-Tanner, Ahola, Koskinen & Väänänen, 2009), whereas other studies found the reverse to be true (Maslach et al., 2001; Nyklí?ek & Pop, 2005). Also, a study by Ahola and Hakanen (2007) has confirmed a reciprocal relationship between burnout and depressive symptoms.

Stress-related ill health, both physical and psychological, has many consequences, including absenteeism, loss of attentiveness and concentration and low energy levels (Rothmann & Rothmann, 2006). …

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