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The Moody Blues Depressed workers bring the whole company down, so get them the help they need.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs who run bars, restaurants and child-care or elder-care businesses have a new worry: depression. Their employees are more likely than those in other fields to get depressed enough to hurt productivity, boost absenteeism and deflate morale, according to a 2007 government study. And we're not talking about a bluesy afternoon: A major depressive episode, as the 2007 "National Survey on Drug Use and Health" defines it, lasts two weeks or longer and involves a depressed mood, a general lack of interest and possible problems with sleep, eating, concentration and productivity. The annual cost to U.S. companies is $30 billion to $44 billion, according to the study.

Seven percent of full-time employees--8.1 million workers--reported major depression in the previous year. Personal-care and food and beverage workers were most likely to experience it; they constituted 10.8 percent and 10.3 percent of reported cases, respectively. Women were more susceptible than men, and part-timers were at higher risk than full-time workers. Employees age 18 to 25 were most likely to experience depressive illness.

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