Journal List > J Korean Neuropsychiatr Assoc > v.54(2) > 1017730

Hong, Lee, Sim, and Kim: Awareness, Attitude and Impact of Perceived Depression in the Workplace in Korea



Depression is a common disabling psychiatric illness in the workplace and is associated with high burden to both employer and employee. Little is known about the awareness, attitude, and impact of depression in the Korean workplace. This study investigates how workers perceive the symptomatology, disability, and management of depression.


This study is a cross-sectional web-based survey of 1000 workers recruited from online sites. Selected panel members were invited to participate in the survey through Ipsos MORI ( between 10th and 19th February 2014. The participants were Korean workers, aged 16-64, who are either currently working or had worked within the past year. Subjects were encouraged to respond to a 13-item questionnaire on the awareness, attitude, and impact of depression.


According to the results, 7.4% of the subjects responded that they had ever been diagnosed as having depression from medical professionals. One third of workers with depression who had taken time off from work did not provide the actual reason to their employers, and the mean number of days off work was 9.8 days. The most common symptoms were depressed mood (76.7%), loss of interests (71.5%), sleep problem (69.8%), and cognitive dysfunction (47.0%). Cognitive symptoms (72.2%) were prominent among the workers who continued to work under the influence of depression.


Korean workers reported a low rate of depression. Those who have been diagnosed with depression reported shorter number of days taken off from work compared to other countries. These results suggest that depression is poorly recognized and disclosed to employers in the Korean workplace. Presenteeism rather than absenteeism may be a major loss of productivity in Korea. An employee assistance program for depressed workers and new therapeutic strategies for treatment of cognitive symptoms of depression should be provided in Korea.

Figures and Tables

Table 1

Sociodemographic characteristics of persons with and without depression in the workplace

Table 2

Common depressive symptoms described by all workers (n=1000) ; in the most recent episode ; with impact on work performance ; and which caused taken off work


*: Any symptom of trouble concentrating, difficulty planning activities, indecisiveness or forgetfulness, : Question 2B : Which, if any, of the following attributes/symptoms do you associate with depression in general? (choose 4 items), : Question 4A : The last time you had depression, which of the following symptoms did you experience? (choose all), §: Question 5E : The last time you had depression, which of the below attributes/symptoms do you think most impacted your ability to perform tasks at work as normal (choose 4 items), : Question 6C : The last time you had depression, which of the below attributes/symptoms caused you to take time off work?

Table 3

Comparison of absent days with depression among workers


*: Mann-Whitney test. M (SE) : Mean (standard error)

Table 4

Reaction of manager and employee to an employee with depression



Conflicts of Interest The authors have no financial conflicts of interest.





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