Obesity, skin cancer and back problems have emerged as the leading causes of worker absences over the past 20 years, while depression has faded in significance — or has it?

New data from a 20-year disability study by Cigna Corp. raises serious concerns about the real impact of employee depression on productivity.

Cigna sifted through two decades of disability claims — 1993-2012 — in an attempt to identify trends in why people were missing work. Among the most striking finding: "A reduction in absences related to depression coupled with an increase in prescribed anti-depressants may signal a hidden problem."

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.