A new study suggests that employees struggling with depression take less time off from work if they receive support and help from their managers.

Many people suffer depression at some point during their working lives. But they often don’t disclose their condition or seek help because they’re afraid of repercussions, according to the researchers.

The new findings, based on surveys in 15 countries, show the value of active mental health workplace policies.

Manager reactions to employees with depression can reflect broad cultural and organizational features that directly relate to employee productivity.

The study analysed data from a survey of more than 16,000 employees and their managers in the United States, Canada, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.

Nearly 3,000 of the workers said they were or had been depressed.

In general, managers in Asian countries tended to avoid employees with depression and were less likely to offer active support than managers in other parts of the world.

Managers in Japan and South Korea were least likely to offer help to employees with depression, while those in Mexico and South Africa were most likely to do so.

Managers in South Korea and China were the most likely to avoid talking about depression with workers. Managers in Canada, Denmark and Great Britain were least likely to avoid the topic.

In countries where managers tended to avoid dealing with depression, employees with depression took more days off from work than those in countries where managers were more likely to offer help and support.

The study also found that workers with higher levels of education took more time off for depression than those with less education.

Also, males aged 45 to 64 with medium to low levels of education were more likely than younger men to go into work despite depression.

The study can’t prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Still, the findings strengthen “the economic case for supporting the development and implementation of effective policies and practices for managers to be able to actively support an employee with depression.

The business case for intervention through better managerial response is exemplified by the substantial costs associated with mental health problems and evidence from a number of studies that mental health can improve through workplace programs, with economic benefits to employers.