updated 10/14/2007 8:24:37 AM ET 2007-10-14T12:24:37

People who tend to the elderly, change diapers and serve up food and drinks have the highest rates of depression among U.S. workers.

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Overall, 7 percent of full-time workers battled depression in the past year, according to a government report available Saturday.

Women were more likely than men to have had a major bout of depression, and younger workers had higher rates of depression than their older colleagues.

Almost 11 percent of personal care workers — which includes child care and helping the elderly and severely disabled with their daily needs — reported depression lasting two weeks or longer.

During such episodes there is loss of interest and pleasure, and at least four other symptoms surface, including problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration and self-image.

Workers who prepare and serve food — cooks, bartenders, waiters and waitresses — had the second highest rate of depression among full-time employees at 10.3 percent.

In a tie for third were health care workers and social workers at 9.6 percent.

The lowest rate of depression, 4.3 percent, occurred in the job category that covers engineers, architects and surveyors.

Government officials tracked depression within 21 major occupational categories. They combined data from 2004 through 2006 to estimate episodes of depression within the past year. That information came from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which registers lifetime and past-year depression bouts.

Costly affliction
Depression leads to $30 billion to $44 billion in lost productivity annually, said the report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The report was available Saturday on the agency's Web site at http://oas.samhsa.gov

The various job categories tracked could be quite broad, with employees grouped in the same category seemingly having little in common.

For example, one category included workers in the arts, media, entertainment and sports. In the personal care category, a worker caring for toddlers at a daycare center would have quite a different job from a nursing aide who helps an older person live at home rather than in a nursing home.

Just working full-time would appear to be beneficial in preventing depression. The overall rate of depression for full-time workers, 7 percent, compares with the 12.7 percent rate registered by those who are unemployed.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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