A 2-year cohort study on the impact of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) on depression and suicidal thoughts in male Japanese workers

Abstract

Objective

Depression and suicide-related behaviours are important issues for workers, and the number of Japanese companies contracting with the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to promote employees’ mental health has recently increased. However, no longitudinal studies have reported that the EAP maintains or improves the overall level of depression among employees qualitatively. Thus, we attempted to assess the impact of the EAP on depression and suicide-related behaviours in the workplace.

Methods

A cohort study was conducted on 283 male Japanese employees aged 22–38 years at a Japanese information-technology company introducing the EAP. Because the privacy policy of the EAP service made it difficult to perform a randomised design in the workplace, 22 men working at an affiliated company without the EAP were used as a reference group. All the subjects completed the 17-item Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D) and Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) consisting of job demands, control, and social support before the EAP was introduced to establish a baseline and after 2 years.

Results

In the EAP group, the total HAM-D scores significantly decreased after the 2-year study period (P = 0.0011); the changes in the scores of the five HAM-D items (i.e., suicidal thoughts, agitation, psychomotor retardation, guilt, and depressed mood) were significant. Specifically, 19 (86%) of the 22 workers with a positive response to the suicidal thoughts item (i.e., score ≥ 1) at baseline reported that they no longer had suicidal thoughts (i.e., score = 0) after the 2 year study period. No significant changes were observed in the reference group. The three JCQ scores were not significantly different between the baseline and after the 2 year study period in both groups.

Conclusion

Although further studies are needed, EAPs may be a promising strategy for maintaining the good mental health of workers.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by the Occupational Health Promotion Foundation (2005) and by Health and Labour Sciences Research Grants (2003–2005) from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

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Correspondence to Mutsuhiro Nakao.

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Nakao, M., Nishikitani, M., Shima, S. et al. A 2-year cohort study on the impact of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) on depression and suicidal thoughts in male Japanese workers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 81, 151–157 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-007-0196-x

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Keywords

  • Depression
  • Employee Assistance Programme
  • Job demands
  • Suicide
  • Worker’s health examination