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RR57 - Effects of prescribed medication on performance in the working population

Presents the findings from an investigation of the effects of medication prescribed for anxiety and depression on working life. Used focus groups with sufferers to collect data on the personal experiences of mental health problems and the impact of psychotropic drugs. Focus groups were also conducted with staff in human resources, personnel, occupational health and health and health and safety departments, to explore the organisational perspectives on mental health in the workplace. As part of the validation process, the results were presented to an expert panel comprising trades union representatives, researchers and practitioners in occupational medicine, health and clinical psychology, health and safety and psychiatry. Workers found it difficult to distinguish between the effects of medication and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Both the symptoms and the medication were reported to impair work performance. Participants described a variety of accidents and near misses that they attributed to their condition to the side effects of medication. Workers with responsibilities for others, such as teachers, health care workers and managers, appeared to present a particular risk to safety in the workplace. Non-compliance with medication was common due to unpleasant side effects, lack of improvement in symptoms or because the medication initially made them feel worse. Employees were largely ill prepared for their medication regimens and would have welcomed more information from doctors. Drawing on the evidence collected, the report makes recommendations for the prevention and management of anxiety and depression in the workplace and outlines areas for improvement.

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Updated 2010-03-19