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British workers are the most depressed in Europe, says European Depression Association

British workers are the most likely to be diagnosed with depression in Europe, a survey has found.

The Impact of Depression in the Workplace in Europe Audit (IDEA) survey polled more than 7,000 people. It found that 20% of respondents were diagnosed with depression at some point. The highest rate was in the UK (26%) and the lowest in Italy (12%). Among workers experiencing depression, those in Germany (61%), Denmark (60%), and the UK (58%) were most likely to take time off work, while those in Turkey were the least likely to (25%).

The survey found that, one in 10 employees in Europe have missed work due to depression, with an average of 36 days lost per episode of depression. This equates to 21,000 lost working days for this group of people during their last depressive episode.

Despite the high rates of absenteeism due to depression, one in four stated they did not tell their employer about the problem. Of these, one in three said they felt it would put their job at risk in the current economic climate.

Head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), Simon Lawton, commented on the findings: "Businesses are facing tough times. The uncertain economic outlook brings with it a looming threat of redundancies, which is putting employees at increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression."

Lawton welcomed the findings, saying: "This is something employers cannot afford to ignore. Between issues such as rising absenteeism and impaired productivity among those who remain at work, mental health problems now cost employers globally over £26 billion a year."

When the survey asked what is needed to support employees with depression in the workplace, 56% of UK managers cited more counselling services and better Government legislation and policies.

President of the European Depression Association, Dr Vincenzo Costigliola, said: "The results of the IDEA survey show that much needs to be done in raising awareness and supporting employees and employers in recognising and managing depression in the workplace."

He added: "We ask policymakers to consider the impact of depression on the workforce and charge them with addressing depression and workers and workplace safety."

The research was conducted using market research company Ipsos MORI's online panel, between 30 August and 19 September 2012. Questions were asked online of 7,065 adults aged 16-64 who are workers and managers, or have worked and managed within the past 12 months, across Europe. The full results of the IDEA survey will be published in early 2013.