A lot of job applications have a section saying 'Do you have any existing or prior medical condition that may affect your ability to do the job?'.

This is often in reference to things like a back injury, etc.

What I'm wondering, is if it would be a good or a bad idea to put 'depression' in that field - or simply tick no.

  • 4
    Please note that this comment in no way invalidates depression but rather shines a light on the business aspect. Bad idea, a business is not a charity. To them you are simply an expense at this point. They are trying to figure out how much it is going to cost them to fulfill a certain activity within their organization. Listing depression will raise a huge red flag which basically translates into you potentially costing the company even more right out of the gate. Once you are able to prove yourself within the workplace then that will give them a reason to care about your condition. – MonkeyZeus Jan 17 '15 at 6:08
  • Imagine if you were interviewing doctors for a life threatening medical condition. Would you want to select a doctor that tells you they are depressed upon shaking their hand? – MonkeyZeus Jan 17 '15 at 6:09
  • @dwjohnston Please add a country tag to your question. I assume these kind of questions are legal in your country, but in others they're not. – user8036 Jan 17 '15 at 10:42

The employer is most likely asking this question in connection with their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for employees with disabilities - The Act does not specifically list the disabilities nor does it specify what accommodations must be made.

If your employer can argue that there is no reasonable accommodation that they can make for your disability, then all you will succeed in doing when you specify your disability is to disqualify your own candidacy for the position you are going for.

Let's sharpen the focus:

  • this link specifically covers your prospective employer's obligations to you if you suffer from depression.
  • This link specifically describes your depression is handled by ADA,and is sourced straight from the EEOC, the agency in charge of interpreting and enforcing ADA.

In terms of looking further for accommodations that can be made by employers to comply with ADA, I lucked out on my Google search :)

These links will also point you to further resources as appropriate mental health NGOs if you want to take your search further, or if you want to ask your question there.

When you are applying, be cognizant that not every prospective employer, especially those are small enough that they combine the HR function with say the bookkeeping function or do not run a formal HR operation, is aware of your rights under ADA. However, it is more than a fair and reasonable guess that any employer that provides a formal application does have a fully functional HR.


A lot of job applications have a section saying 'Do you have any existing or prior medical condition that may affect your ability to do the job?'.

This is often in reference to things like a back injury, etc.

What I'm wondering, is if it would be a good or a bad idea to put 'depression' in that field - or simply tick no.

Remember - this question isn't asking "Do you have depression?" Rather this question is asking about things that affect your ability to do the job. The emphasis here (since it's a job application) is about the job.

Consider what you know about the job. Consider what you know about yourself. That will guide how you answer this question.

If you don't have depression, then you would simply tick no. But presumably, you wouldn't have asked your question this way, unless you do have (or suspect you might have) depression.

If you suspect you have depression, but haven't actually been diagnosed, then you should not indicate 'depression' on a job application. Get medical help so you know for yourself, and so that you can get appropriate treatment.

Let's assume that you know you do have depression. So now consider your past. Has your depression affected your ability to do jobs in the past?

And finally consider the job. Based on your knowledge of the specifics of this particular job, would your depression impact your ability to perform it?

If your past experience with depression hasn't affected your ability to do your work, and this job doesn't introduce new attributes such that your depression would affect your ability to do the job, then you should tick no. Many people have depression that is well-controlled, or that doesn't impact their particular profession.

But if your depression has impacted your job in the past, and this new job is similar to your past jobs, then you need to be honest and tick yes.


If you don't have depression and never have, then the answer is 'no'.

However, there's no doubt that an honest answer to the question 'Do you have any existing or prior medical condition that may affect your ability to do the job?' will take account of mental health as well as physical health, unless the form explicitly indicates otherwise.

If you do or have had depression, the key question is what effect you expect your depression to have on your job. If you had a week off and were prescribed some mild medication ten years ago and you've had no history since, it's probably safe to assume it's now going to be of no consequence to your job.

On the other hand, if you do think it is liable to recur and recurrence would affect your ability to do your job, then ticking 'no' would be making a false statement to your potential employer, which in most jurisdictions be considered grounds for termination and may have other negative implications (e.g. on any reference they give).

Furthermore if you do later require adjustments in your workplace because of a pre-existing condition, you may have problems justifying it if you did not declare it, or you may be forced to reveal you filled in the form with false information, potentially resulting in disciplinary action or dismissal, which you probably aren't going to want to have to deal with when your mental health is at a low point.

With regard to the concern that the employer may choose not to hire you on the basis of your medical history, it is impossible to know this. Depending on the jurisdiction, this may be illegal, though hard to prove. It's generally a good sign if the part of the form they ask you is a separate sheet which is sent to Occupational Health and not the hiring manager, or if you are asked after being offered a job. Otherwise, it might be evidence of an intention to discriminate. Ideally, the only thing they should need to know before making offers is if there are any adjustments they need to make to the interview process (e.g. level access to the interview room).

Consider also whether you want to work for an employer who does not want to hire people who have depression. That's by no means a solution to discrimination, but it is something that may influence your decision.


If you think you can do the job, then tick No. And if you have never been diagnosed, tick No (because you do not know for sure if you have a medical condition without diagnosis). If you really think depression might keep you from being able to do the job (you miss a lot of work when you are depressed, for example, or get belligerent under stress), perhaps you should reconsider applying for it.

Most depression is manageable with medication or therapy, so it should not affect your ability to work. Many, many people work through periodic episodes of depression with little impact to their work.