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DEPRESSION AFFECTING WORK PERFORMANCE SOUTH AFRICANS suffering from depression took an average of 18 days' leave because of their condition, but only half of those diagnosed took time off work because of it. A study by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) puts into question the level of performance achieved by the other half that continued working, especially considering the commonly experienced cognitive symptoms of poor concentration, forgetfulness and indecisiveness. New research has found that presenteeism, not absenteeism, contributed to productivity loss at work. Psychiatrist and clinical psychologist Dr Frans Korb said depression affected cognitive functioning such as decision-making, concentration, memory and problem-solving abilities. "Depression negatively impacts productivity If an employee has depression but is at work, they are five times less productive than an employee who was absent due to depression," said Korb. A study by Hexor on the impact of depression at work showed that 54 percent of people who experienced depression said they took more time to complete simple jobs, while 50 percent made more mistakes than usual at work. Global empirical evidence predicted that depression could become the greatest cause of disability worldwide by 2030. It further showed that 60 percent of costs lost through depression were due to sick leave and early retirement, for example. Operations director at Sadag, Cassey Chambers, said it was vital to examine how depression was being managed in the workplace and what procedures were in place to ensure that affected employees were encouraged to seek treatment and supported in doing so. "With the help of Lundbeck SA, Sadag conducted the new research to gain a better understanding of how many South Africans making up the country's workforce experience depression, how much awareness exists in the working world about the condition and how the illness is managed in the workplace," she said. But despite one in three South Africans being affected by some kind of mental illness, not enough was being done by the Health Department, said Sadag spokeswoman Meryl da Costa. According to Sadag, South Africa is in the bottom four countries for providing mental health treatment, where 50 percent of health facilities do not meet quality standards. This is while 16.5 percent of South Africans have common mental health problems and 11 percent of all non-natural deaths in South Africa are due to suicide. "We know that less than 4 percent of the health budget goes to mental health. There are not enough resources, hospitals, clinics, trained staff to be equipped for the number of patients. And of that, 75 percent of people will not receive treatment," said Da Costa. "To think that there are more people in South Africa that are affected with mental health (problems) than HIV/ Aids, yet there is not enough funding for it." The Health Department was approached for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication. nicolette.dirk(rqnl.co.za More people in South Africa are affected with mental health problems than HIV/Aids