OBJECTIVE:Working through a depressive illness can improve mental health but also carries risks and costs from reduced concentration, fatigue, and poor on-the-job performance. However, evidence-based recommendations for managing work attendance decisions, which benefit individuals and employers, are lacking. Therefore, this study has compared the costs and health outcomes of short-term absenteeism versus working while ill ("presenteeism") amongst employed Australians reporting lifetime major depression. METHODS:Cohort simulation using state-transition Markov models simulated movement of a hypothetical cohort of workers, reporting lifetime major depression, between health states over one- and five-years according to probabilities derived from a quality epidemiological data source and existing clinical literature. Model outcomes were health service and employment-related costs, and quality-adjusted-life-years (QALYs), captured for absenteeism relative to presenteeism, and stratified by occupation (blue versus white-collar). RESULTS:Per employee with depression, absenteeism produced higher mean costs than presenteeism over one- and five-years ($42,573/5-years for absenteeism, $37,791/5-years for presenteeism). However, overlapping confidence intervals rendered differences non-significant. Employment-related costs (lost productive time, job turnover), and antidepressant medication and service use costs of absenteeism and presenteeism were significantly higher for white-collar workers. Health outcomes differed for absenteeism versus presenteeism amongst white-collar workers only. CONCLUSIONS:Costs and health outcomes for absenteeism and presenteeism were not significantly different; service use costs excepted. Significant variation by occupation type was identified. These findings provide the first occupation-specific cost evidence which can be used by clinicians, employees, and employers to review their management of depression-related work attendance, and may suggest encouraging employees to continue working is warranted.