Job stress costs $730m

Preventable job stress is draining $730 million a year from the Australian economy, a new report has found.

An estimated 1.5 million workers have been diagnosed with depression from excessive job stress, costing businesses more than $8000 per person every year, says the report.

Such job strain in the study is defined as coming from employees perceiving that they have little control over their work due to long-term, high-stress job demands.

Released on Wednesday, the VicHealth study found job-related depression is common but preventable. It hurts businesses from lost productive time and employee replacement costs.

An annual $730 million figure on job strain includes the cost of government-subsidised mental health services and medications for depression.

Study co-author Tony LaMontagne, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne, says the $730 million figure underestimates the real costs of workplace depression because it doesn't include other risk factors from bullying, sexual harassment and job insecurity.

"These figures represent a significant burden on the Australian economy that is preventable by improving job quality," he said in a statement.

He said the study shows there are economic incentives for workplaces to reduce job strain, on top of legal and ethical reasons.

"Employers would be the major beneficiaries of reducing job strain over the long term, because the greatest costs fall on employers due to lost productivity and employee replacement."

The report is funded by VicHealth and conducted by the University of Melbourne's School of Population Health and Tasmania's Menzies Research Institute.