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Depression and Anxiety Barriers for One in Five Working Women

Reprinted from "Women's" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (4), p. 12

ne in five working women report having depression or anxiety, and the majority of these women say that symptoms are their greatest barriers to success in the workplace, according to a new national survey.

Researchers screened 7,260 working women from across Canada for depression and/or anxiety, and then surveyed 1,508 women from that group who met the criteria for major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, or who were already diagnosed. Most of the women surveyed were between the ages of 35 and 55, lived in a city or suburban community, and had children. Most occupation types, education levels and income segments were represented in the survey.

The research was conducted by Léger Marketing for Wyeth Canada, a pharmaceutical company, in association with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s National office and Our Sisters’ Place, a support network for women with mood disorders associated with hormonal changes.

Women felt that their symptoms of depression and anxiety were greater barriers to their success in the workplace than other traditional barriers such as pregnancy (71% versus 23%), raising children (49% versus 44%) or sexism (54% versus 37%).

Among women with depression or anxiety, 74% said that their symptoms made them feel overwhelmed at work, 59% said that they did not feel motivated to get things done, and 44% stayed home from work. Seven per cent said they had lost their job because of depression or anxiety, while 23% had quit and 21% were on long-term disability leave.

Almost all the women interviewed (91%) wished for better and more accessible help from their employer for treatment of their depression or anxiety. According to the survey, women say employers should educate themselves and be more understanding about mental health issues, should increase the availability of counsellors at work, and should offer more company resources and make them better known to employees.

Almost half of the respondents said that their workplace offers, and they were aware of, an employee assistance program and 20% of respondents had used their workplace program (in BC, 57% had used one), with most saying they were satisfied with the help they received.

The women interviewed for the survey were optimistic about the potential for remission from depression and anxiety, with 75% believing that it is possible to be completely symptom free. Most women found that their ability to work greatly improved following remission, with 86% saying they were more motivated, 84% worked more efficiently and 79% felt less overwhelmed.

 
Notes

Adapted from Mental Health Notes, November 19th, 2004 edition, the e-newsletter of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Ontario Division. Available online at www.ontario.cmha.ca/ content/reading_room/ mhnotes.asp? cID=5252

For more details, see “Depression and Anxiety among Canadian Women in the Workplace: Executive Summary,” November 15, 2004, at www.legermarketing.com

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