Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects a person’s function of daily activities, including work participation. Such functional impairments often persist even when other symptoms of MDD are remitted. Increasing evidence highlights the health-promoting effects of returning to work (RTW) in various diseases. However, limited data are available regarding the impact of return to work on functional recovery in MDD. We explored the association between RTW and functional improvements in people with MDD using a large nationally representative database and a 3-year follow-up.
Data of people with an MDD diagnosis were selected from the Taiwan Data Bank of Persons with disability for the period between July 11, 2012, and October 31, 2018. We included 4038 adults aged 18–64 years. The World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule 2.0 was used for functional assessment. The association between RTW and functional improvements was investigated using a multivariable regression analysis adjusted for confounding variables.
Women aged ≥ 45 years with a lower education level were vulnerable to prolonged unemployment. RTW was significantly associated with better functional improvements in cognition, mobility, self-care, getting along, life activity, and participation than unemployment.
RTW was positively associated with functional improvements in patients with MDD. A referral system targeting re-employment may be suggested during MDD treatment, especially for individuals at risk of prolonged unemployment.