Postpartum depression (PPD), or the onset of depressive symptoms that set in a few weeks to a year after giving birth, is estimated to affect up to 20% of new moms. Since postpartum depression can (and often does) strike after a woman in America has returned to work, there are many implications for mothers as well as the companies that employ them. Without social support in the workplace and access to adequate mental health services, women can’t get the help they need and businesses endure a greater financial hit. Here are a few of the ways untreated PPD can affect a company’s bottom line.
1. Untreated postpartum depression can drive up healthcare costs.
One study examining the link between postpartum depression and healthcare costs found that women incurred 90% higher health care expenditures than women who didn’t suffer from PPD. Among the findings that the study revealed: Depressed women were significantly more likely (18.2%) than non-depressed women (4.1%) to visit the emergency room. Another study from the University of Maryland found that postpartum depression corresponds to extra healthcare costs of around $700 within the first three months after a woman gives birth. Clearly, offering employees access to mental health services (to both prevent and address postpartum depression) can help reduce the substantial health care costs associated with PPD.
“Companies have the ability to address these costs in a number of key ways. For example, offering new moms back-to-work coaching as well as adopting policies that allow mothers to return to work at a gradual pace after maternity leave can help reduce some of the stress that makes them more vulnerable to mental health issues.”
2. Untreated postpartum depression can lead to decreased work performance.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the leading cause of absenteeism in the U.S. is depression. And absenteeism usually equates to decreased productivity that directly impacts a company’s finances. In fact, The Wilder Foundation estimates that postpartum depression costs employers $6,223 per woman in lost productivity if a mother’s depression goes untreated after her return to work. This lost productivity can be attributed to missing days of work as well as what experts called “presenteeism”: when employees show up for work, but don’t perform at their best due to mental or physical health issues. It’s worth noting that presenteeism can be even more expensive for companies, in part because it’s not always immediately noticeable.
3. Untreated postpartum depression may cause women to leave their jobs.
When women with postpartum depression do not receive the support and flexibility they need from their employers during this challenging time in their lives, they often end up deciding to leave their jobs. In addition to being a disappointing outcome for the many women who want to stay in the workforce, this becomes extremely expensive for employers. A New Zealand company, Clear Communications, calculated that recruiting and training replacements for new mothers who quit after their maternity leave cost them an average of $75,000 (USD) per woman. Their estimate is in line with Ernst & Young’s claim that replacing a new mom costs them 150% of her salary, based on the median U.S. salary of $44,000.
The Bottom Line:
Companies have the ability to address these costs in a number of key ways. For example, offering new moms back-to-work coaching as well as adopting policies that allow mothers to return to work at a gradual pace after maternity leave can help reduce some of the stress that makes them more vulnerable to mental health issues. By providing preventative counseling and screenings for postpartum depression, companies can encourage women to get the help they need before their symptoms become overwhelming. And, since some studies suggest that social support is the most important criterion in recovering from postpartum depression, making counseling more accessible via telemedicine can also go a long way. Ultimately, companies will be rewarded with significant healthcare cost savings and a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.