Antidepressants don’t shorten disability leave

Kathleen Koster of Employee Benefit News reports on a newly released study which, Koster writes, found that “Even with antidepressant treatment, employee depression severity levels positively correlate with the length and cost of short term disability leave.”

The 34,000 patients whose data were studied were all “diagnosed with depression and treated with antidepressants.” Keep in mind that, in this context, STD refers to “short term disability” leave.

When compared to other chronic diseases’ effect on annual STD cost of patients, those associated with depressed individuals ($1,038 for patients with depression and $1,685 for the severely depressed) exceeded the STD costs for hypertension ($66), diabetes ($118), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ($197), and rheumatoid arthritis ($851), based on estimates by a study by Carls et al. using the same data source standardized to the same year.

In terms of days lost, 18% of patients with depression used short-term disability leave, while only 7.2% of the matched control group took advantage of the leave. Depressed patients also took more than 30 absentee days, approximately four days more on average than among matched controls. Associated costs to these days off were also disparate, with $3,925 associated with depressed employees and $3,360 with the control group.

And, from the study’s abstract:

Among antidepressant users, medical costs were not statistically different for compliant versus noncompliant patients; drug costs were higher for compliant patients, primarily because of antidepressants’ costs.

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