Insomnia and emotional distress account for much of the work impact of mental health problems like depression and anxiety, a new study has suggested.
According to the new research by Kajal Lahiri, PhD, Pinka Chatterji, PhD, and graduate student Souvik Banerjee of University at Albany, SUNY, many adults who don’t have a formal psychiatric diagnosis still have mental health symptoms that interfere with full participation in the workforce.
Using combined data from three national databases, the researchers looked at how the relationship between mental health symptoms and work-related outcomes - for example, being employed or number of work absences.
The analysis used a novel statistical modeling approach that captured the effects of mental health symptoms in individuals, whether or not they had clinically diagnosed psychiatric disorders.
The study focused on symptoms associated with four mental health conditions: major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic attacks. The study methodology explicitly assessed symptom overlap across disorders.
For depression and anxiety, the model identified some specific symptoms as “crucial for labor market outcomes.” For major depression, the factors with the greatest impact on work-related outcomes were insomnia and hypersomnia (sleeping too much), indecisiveness, and severe emotional distress. For women with major depression, fatigue was an additional important symptom.
For generalized anxiety disorder, the duration of the episode of anxiety was the factor with the greatest impact on work-related outcomes. Other important symptoms were difficulty controlling worry and emotional distress related to worry, anxiety, or nervousness.
The study has been published in the journal Medical Care.