Monday, November 15, 2004

One in Five Working Women Suffers Depression or Anxiety

One in five working women has depression or anxiety
By ALLISON DUNFIELD
Globe and Mail Update
Monday, Nov 15, 2004

One in five working women have experienced clinical depression or anxiety, a new survey released Monday found – causing them to avoid seeking promotions, to feel overwhelmed at the office or even to quit their job.

Researchers from Léger Marketing, in conjunction with the Canadian Mental Health Association, conducted the survey, which was based on telephone interviews with 1,508 women across Canada over 18 who were experiencing anxiety or depression. Women involved had already been diagnosed with one of the two afflictions or had met the diagnostic criteria for having one or both of the conditions.

It found that about 73 per cent of the working women experiencing anxiety or depression felt that a mental illness was affecting their productivity. Eighty-one per cent sought help from a family doctor.

Just fewer than half the women knew of employee assistance programs that could help them at work, and about one in five took advantage of these programs. When they did, most were happy with the services provided, the report found.

About 23 per cent of the women suffering from depression or anxiety quit their jobs, and another 21 per cent had to take disability leave at some point.

Of those who stayed on the job, three-quarters said they felt completely overwhelmed at work and more than half (58 per cent) said their state left them unmotivated to get things done.

"This survey confirms that there's a serious need to address mental-health issues in the workplace, especially among women who are actually being held back due to the lack of support available to help them manage these conditions," Penny Marrett, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said in a statement.

"The sooner employers address these issues, the sooner they will see increased productivity.

Another, larger study conducted in 2002 by Statistics Canada – the Canadian Community Health Survey – found that women are more likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders than men, while men are more likely to suffer from dependence on drugs and alcohol.

That study, of about 37,000 people across Canada, found that 5.5 per cent of women suffered from major depression, compared with 3.4 per cent of men. In terms of anxiety, 5.8 per cent of women suffered from some sort of anxiety disorder such as panic disorder, while 3.6 per cent of men were affected.

Monday's Léger study also found that employees said that they were least likely to go to a boss for help.

They were most likely to turn to a friend, a family member or, to a lesser extent, a colleague, "indicating there is a reluctance to address these issues in the workplace."

"Nine out of 10 women surveyed wished for better, more accessible help through increased availability of resources from their workplace," the report said.