The Role of Mental Health on Workplace Productivity: A Critical Review of the Literature

Claire de Oliveira*, Makeila Saka, Lauren Bone, Rowena Jacobs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Mental health disorders in the workplace have increasingly been recognised as a problem in most countries given their high economic burden. However, few reviews have examined the relationship between mental health and worker productivity.

OBJECTIVE: To review the relationship between mental health and lost productivity and undertake a critical review of the published literature.

METHODS: A critical review was undertaken to identify relevant studies published in MEDLINE and EconLit from 1 January 2008 to 31 May 2020, and to examine the type of data and methods employed, study findings and limitations, and existing gaps in the literature. Studies were critically appraised, namely whether they recognised and/or addressed endogeneity and unobserved heterogeneity, and a narrative synthesis of the existing evidence was undertaken.

RESULTS: Thirty-eight (38) relevant studies were found. There was clear evidence that poor mental health (mostly measured as depression and/or anxiety) was associated with lost productivity (i.e., absenteeism and presenteeism). However, only the most common mental disorders were typically examined. Studies employed questionnaires/surveys and administrative data and regression analysis. Few studies used longitudinal data, controlled for unobserved heterogeneity or addressed endogeneity; therefore, few studies were considered high quality.

CONCLUSION: Despite consistent findings, more high-quality, longitudinal and causal inference studies are needed to provide clear policy recommendations. Moreover, future research should seek to understand how working conditions and work arrangements as well as workplace policies impact presenteeism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-193
Number of pages27
JournalApplied Health Economics and Health Policy
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Workplace/psychology
  • Efficiency
  • Mental Disorders
  • Working Conditions
  • Absenteeism

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