Latimer: Depression, high blood pressure top study findings

We know depression and anxiety are very common—they affect roughly one in five people and can be quite debilitating.

New research places depression alongside high blood pressure as a leading reason Canadians visit their doctors.

In a national survey of more than 1,200 doctors, employees and employers, almost a quarter of physicians said depression was the main reason for patient visits.

Another quarter listed high blood pressure as the most common condition.

More than 60 per cent of physicians said the fastest increase in cases in the past two to three years was for depression, anxiety and stress-related issues.

In some ways, this result is not surprising.

We know depression and anxiety are very common—they affect roughly one in five people and can be quite debilitating.

What is interesting is the increase in people visiting their doctors for these issues.

This could be a good sign that the stigma long associated with mental health issues is starting to lift.

People are beginning to accept mental health issues as legitimate health concerns for which there are treatment options available.

Of employees dealing with mental health issues, 82 per cent surveyed said their symptoms affected their work.

More than 65 per cent of those dealing with stress found it affected their work.

Although mental health issues have a negative effect on work performance and productivity, employers who provide mental wellness support often see a relationship between health and work engagement.

Stress and mental health issues can occur for many reasons and may have little or nothing to do with work or the workplace—on the other hand, work itself can be a significant cause of stress for many people.

Often, people spend the bulk of their time each day in environments filled with interpersonal conflict, competitive or hostile office culture, poor communication or unreasonable demands.

This can create a very negative atmosphere, which is not only unpleasant, but harmful to the mental well being of employees.

In order to minimize workplace stress, employers can take steps to foster a positive atmosphere and a safe place for employees.

To begin, employers can encourage management to openly discuss the importance of mental health, which would encourage employees to feel more comfortable disclosing if they are having difficulty.

Employers can also offer education for management and employees about the dangers of excessive stress and the nature of some common mental illnesses.

Reviewing disability claims and return to work policies, education programs and workplace attitudes about mental health can also be helpful.

Companies that place a priority on mental health in the workplace, can greatly reduce the amount of lost productivity and personal distress.

This will improve the atmosphere in the workplace and go a long way to helping the bottom line and retaining employees.

This study confirms that mental health issues affect a large portion of the population and are a growing issue for doctors and workplaces.

It is important we now work to improve access to mental health care and community resources.

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