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Enhanced depression care may be cost-effective for employers

Offering additional depression screening and care may save employers about $3,000 per 1,000 workers over five years, according to a cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis reported in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

In addition to its toll on patients' health and well-being, depression is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars in the United States each year, according to background information in the article. Most of these costs are associated with reduced productivity at work. Evidence suggests that currently available treatments and screening methods could reduce these costs, but remain underused.

Philip S. Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md., and colleagues, constructed a computer model to analyze the costs and benefits associated with an enhanced depression care program. The program consisted of screening all employees for depression once and then providing telephone counseling and other depression management strategies for employees with positive results. In the model:

  • Hypothetical employees were 40 years old, the median age of U.S. workers

  • The workers were divided into six groupsnever depressed; depressed but not in treatment; depressed and in treatment; recovered and in treatment; recovered but not in treatment; and deadbased on percentages of each group in the general population

  • At the end of each three-month period, the model workers were moved between states based on estimates drawn from previous studies

  • Depression treatment could be either adequate or substandard, to reflect realistic quality variations

  • The cost of administering the depression screening was based on the cost of adding questions to existing health risk assessments for companies that currently administer
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Contact: Jules Asher
301-443-4536
JAMA and Archives Journals
4-Dec-2006


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