Relationships Between Mood and Employment Over Time Among Depressed VA Primary Care Patients

Published in: General Hospital Psychiatry, v. 34, no. 5, Sep.-Oct. 2012, p. 468-477

Posted on RAND.org on July 06, 2012

by Kara Zivin, Duncan G. Campbell, Andrew B. Lanto, Edmund Chaney, Cory Bolkan, Laura M Bonner, Erin M. Miller, Marcia Valenstein, Thomas J. Waltz, Lisa V. Rubenstein

Read More

Access further information on this document at General Hospital Psychiatry

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Research Question

  1. What is the relationship between employment and depression among veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom?

OBJECTIVE: Associations between depression, productivity and work loss have been reported, yet few studies have examined relationships between longitudinal depression status and employment continuity. We assessed these relationships among Veterans of conventional working ages. METHODS: We used longitudinal survey data from Veterans receiving primary care in 1 of 10 Veterans Health Administration primary care practices in five states. Our sample included 516 participants with nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores indicating probable major depression (PHQ-9≥10) at baseline and who completed either the 7-month follow-up survey or follow-up surveys at both 7 and 18 months postbaseline. We examined relationships between depression persistence and employment status using multinomial logistic regression models. RESULTS: Although general employment rates remained stable (21%–23%), improved depression status was associated with an increased likelihood of becoming employed over 7 months among those who were both depressed and nonemployed at baseline. Improvements in depression status starting at 7 months and continuing through 18 months were associated with remaining employed over the 18-month period, relative to those who were depressed throughout the same time frame. CONCLUSIONS: Given the pressing need to prevent socioeconomic deterioration in the increasing population of conventional working-aged Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veterans, further attention to the depression/employment relationship is urgently needed.

Key Findings

  • Veterans being treated for depression were more likely to become employed, and remain employed when their depression status improved.
  • It is critical to prevent socioeconomic deterioration among working-aged veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.