“Psychological stress, burnout and depression are becoming cost factors which can no longer simply be ignored,” said Christian Molt of the Allianz insurance firm, which published the study in association with economic research and institute RWI Essen on Wednesday.
The report, entitled “Depression: How the Illness Burdens our Souls,” estimates the direct and indirect financial costs of depression are between €15.5 billion and €22 billion annually. Meanwhile direct medical costs alone spiked by one-third (€5.2 billion) between the years 2002 and 2008, the study found.
The indirect costs are even higher, estimated at between €10.3 billion and €16.7 billion.
The study attributes €9.3 billion of these costs to the hidden nature of depression and a workplace culture where people feel pressured to put on a brave face rather than seek treatment. The phenomenon of working while sick, dubbed “presenteeism,” and the costs of reduced productivity are among the biggest to the German economy, the study said.
But the taboo nature of mental illness means that most cases of depression go untreated. National research group Kompetenznetz Depression calculates that out of 100 cases of depression, a maximum of 30 will be formally identified, and just 10 properly treated.
Meanwhile each year 7,000 of the 4 million Germans suffering from depression commit suicide.
Allianz hopes the report will help remove the depression's social stigma and improve prevention and treatment methods.
“We want there to be a wider understanding of what depression really is – a serious illness,” said Molt.