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The Role of Mental Health on Workplace Productivity: A Critical Review of the Literature


  • Claire Oliveira

    (University of York
    Hull York Medical School
    Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
    University of Toronto)

  • Makeila Saka

    (Hull York Medical School)

  • Lauren Bone

    (Hull York Medical School)

  • Rowena Jacobs

    (University of York)


Background Mental health disorders in the workplace have increasingly been recognised as a problem in most countries given their high economic burden. However, few reviews have examined the relationship between mental health and worker productivity. Objective To review the relationship between mental health and lost productivity and undertake a critical review of the published literature. Methods A critical review was undertaken to identify relevant studies published in MEDLINE and EconLit from 1 January 2008 to 31 May 2020, and to examine the type of data and methods employed, study findings and limitations, and existing gaps in the literature. Studies were critically appraised, namely whether they recognised and/or addressed endogeneity and unobserved heterogeneity, and a narrative synthesis of the existing evidence was undertaken. Results Thirty-eight (38) relevant studies were found. There was clear evidence that poor mental health (mostly measured as depression and/or anxiety) was associated with lost productivity (i.e., absenteeism and presenteeism). However, only the most common mental disorders were typically examined. Studies employed questionnaires/surveys and administrative data and regression analysis. Few studies used longitudinal data, controlled for unobserved heterogeneity or addressed endogeneity; therefore, few studies were considered high quality. Conclusion Despite consistent findings, more high-quality, longitudinal and causal inference studies are needed to provide clear policy recommendations. Moreover, future research should seek to understand how working conditions and work arrangements as well as workplace policies impact presenteeism.

Suggested Citation

  • Claire Oliveira & Makeila Saka & Lauren Bone & Rowena Jacobs, 2023. "The Role of Mental Health on Workplace Productivity: A Critical Review of the Literature," Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 167-193, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:aphecp:v:21:y:2023:i:2:d:10.1007_s40258-022-00761-w
    DOI: 10.1007/s40258-022-00761-w

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Souvik Banerjee & Pinka Chatterji & Kajal Lahiri, 2017. "Effects of Psychiatric Disorders on Labor Market Outcomes: A Latent Variable Approach Using Multiple Clinical Indicators," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(2), pages 184-205, February.
    2. Mark L. Bryan & Andrew M. Bryce & Jennifer Roberts, 2020. "Presenteeism in the UK: Effects of physical and mental health on worker productivity," Working Papers 2020005, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
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