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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

New Study Finds Work Productivity Is A Key Measure Of Depression Recovery


A new study from UT Southwestern Medical Center has found work productivity can be a key factor in measuring a patient’s recovery. The study’s lead author explains.

Interview Highlights: Dr. MadhukarTrivedi, Director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care at UT Southwestern's O’Donnell Brain Institute:

How workplace productivity can be a key factor in measuring depression recovery:  “So I think we have unfortunately seen depression as one entity. People think of it as are you sad, are you happy, and then monitor that and try to improve treatment. Depression is a much more complex condition, for one, and the other thing is there are many different symptoms and many areas of life that are affected when someone has depression. Things like concentration, capacity to motivate yourself, and work productivity. And what we found was that not only is work productivity affected, but even when you improve depressive symptoms, it improves in a lot of patients, but in a large proportion of patients, work productivity by itself with the standard antidepressants doesn’t improve."

"What it tells you is that you have to focus on the whole person and therefore think of treatment that is just not medication or, for that matter, just psychotherapy or just exercise. Assess what it affecting them like work productivity and then address that directly to know what symptoms are causing it.”

So, in terms of work productivity, what are you looking for? “People don’t show up for work, but that is only a small proportion. What really is affecting depressed patients is the ability to work when they are there. So they report that they are not their best self, they’re not performing at their highest level, and they feel impaired and guilty and worry about it. And it has a negative impact because they are not lazy. And so they want to work, but because their depression is not fully recovered, and we have not measured their work productivity or motivation or concentration, and attended to that with treatment, they’re not performing with their 100 percent and they feel worse. And this becomes a vicious cycle.”

If you find depression recovery’s not working as it should, then what? “There are special treatments that can be attended to. Things like exercise, psychotherapy. You can even give them work-based behavior therapy so that they can get real care associated with the kind of dysfunction they have.”

For more information: 

Study on depression recovery and work productivity   

Depression In The Workplace 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.