Economy’s link to depression discussed

Ann Arbor News
News Staff Reporter

When autoworkers were faced with layoffs during economic upheavals of the 1970s and 1980s, the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research studied two groups of workers who were about to lose their jobs.

One group received no help in advance of the losses.

But the other group received intervention help – therapy, support, counseling.

And the difference in the mental health outcomes between the two groups was dramatic, according to panelists at a public seminar on depression and the economy at the Ann Arbor District Library Wednesday night.

The lesson? For those prone to depression or experiencing myriad aggravating factors that can trigger an onset of depression, such as job loss, economic reversals and other life traumas, it’s best to act aggressively to help yourself and loved ones, said the panelists, who included U-M Depression Center director John Greden.

The statistics are staggering and they are likely more profound during times when stressors increase, such as a recession with 12 percent statewide unemployment.


  • 21 percent of women and 12 percent of men will experience depression at some point for a total of 17 percent of the U.S. population.
  • Depression is the second most costly disorder in the country, after cardiac disease.
  • The cost of depression in the workplace is more than $100 billion per year.


“What many of us are experiencing is loss,” said moderator Melvin McInnis, a U-M professor of psychiatry, acknowledging what many seemed to be feeling, judging by the nods among the crowd of about 150 people.

Those attending the seminar, sponsored by the library and the depression center, gave written questions to the panel. Questions ranged from the public health effects of unemployment to more provocative topics, such as fixing society rather than medicating individuals.

Edit Jacobson of Ann Arbor came to the event because she is interested in health care and health care delivery – and how to get services to those who don’t have as much access to services.

“I’m very hopeful,” she said. “For 88 percent of us (in Michigan) who still have jobs, how can we help the other 12 percent?”

Though the topic was not exactly uplifting, the session ended on a positive note.

“We ought to learn, we ought to live, we ought to laugh,” Greden said. “Those are the things we can do.”