Even though major depression is more than six times as prevalent, bipolar disorder costs the U.S. workplace nearly half as much – a disproportionately high $14.1 billion annually. Researchers traced the higher toll mostly to bipolar disorder's more severe depressive episodes rather than to its agitated manic periods.

The study is the first to distinguish the impact of depressive episodes due to bipolar disorder from those due to major depressive disorder on the workplace. It is based on one-year data from 3378 employed respondents to the National Co-morbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative household survey of 9,282 U.S. adults, conducted in 2001-2003.

Poor functioning while at work accounted for more lost days than absenteeism. Although only about 1 percent of workers have bipolar disorder in a year, compared to 6.4 percent with major depression, the researchers projected that bipolar disorder accounts for 96.2 million lost workdays and $14.1 billion in lost salary-equivalent productivity, compared to 225 million workdays and $36.6 billion for major depression annually in the United States.

About three-fourths of bipolar respondents had experienced depressive episodes over the past year, with about 63 percent also having agitated manic or hypomanic episodes. The bipolar-associated depressive episodes were much more persistent – affecting 134-164 days – compared to only 98 days for major depression. The bipolar-associated depressive episodes were also more severe. All measures of lost work performance were consistently higher among workers with bipolar disorder who had major depressive episodes than those who reported only manic or hypomanic episodes. The latter workers' lost performance was on a par with workers who had major depressive disorder.

MEDICA.de; Source: National Institute of Mental Health