Whereas employment has been shown to be beneficial for people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) across different cultures, employers’ attitudes have been shown to be negative towards workers with MDD. This may form an important barrier to work participation. Today, little is known about how stigma and discrimination affect work participation of workers with MDD, especially from their own perspective. We aimed to assess, in a working age population including respondents with MDD from 35 countries: (1) if people with MDD anticipate and experience discrimination when trying to find or keep paid employment; (2) if participants in high, middle and lower developed countries differ in these respects; and (3) if discrimination experiences are related to actual employment status (ie, having a paid job or not).
Participants in this cross-sectional study (N=834) had a diagnosis of MDD in the previous 12 months. They were interviewed using the Discrimination and Stigma Scale (DISC-12). Analysis of variance and generalised linear mixed models were used to analyse the data.
Overall, 62.5% had anticipated and/or experienced discrimination in the work setting. In very high developed countries, almost 60% of respondents had stopped themselves from applying for work, education or training because of anticipated discrimination. Having experienced workplace discrimination was independently related to unemployment.
Across different countries and cultures, people with MDD very frequently reported discrimination in the work setting. Effective interventions are needed to enhance work participation in people with MDD, focusing simultaneously on decreasing stigma in the work environment and on decreasing self-discrimination by empowering workers with MDD.