Job strain linked to onset of common mental illness

May 14, 2018, Black Dog Institute
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Workplaces that reduce job strain could prevent up to 14 percent of new cases of common mental illness from occurring, according to new research led by the Black Dog Institute.

Published today in the Lancet Psychiatry, the results confirm that high job strain is associated with an increased risk of developing common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety amongst middle-aged workers.

Job strain is a term used to describe the combination of high work pace, intensity, and conflicting demands, coupled with low control or decision-making capacity.

"Mental is the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia, equating to $11 billion lost to Australian businesses each year," said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from the Black Dog Institute.

"Our modelling used detailed data collected over 50 years to examine the various ways in which particular work conditions may impact an employee's .

"These findings serve as a wake-up call for the role workplace initiatives should play in our efforts to curb the rising costs of mental disorders.

"It's important to remember that for most people, being in work is a good thing for their mental health. But this research provides strong evidence that organisations can improve employee wellbeing by modifying their workplaces to make them more mentally healthy."

The international research team analysed health data from the UK National Child Development Study, a large British cohort study.

Examining 6870 participants, they investigated whether people experiencing job strain at age 45 were at an increased risk of developing by age 50.

To determine levels of job strain, participants completed questionnaires at age 45 testing for factors including decision authority (the ability to make decisions about work), skill discretion (the opportunity to use skills during work) and questions about job pace, intensity and conflicting demands.

The researchers also accounted for non-workplace factors including divorce, financial problems, housing instability, and other stressful life events like death or illness. The models developed in this study controlled for individual workers' temperament and personality, their IQ, level of education, prior mental health problems and a range of other factors from across their early lives.

At age 50, participants completed the Malaise Inventory questionnaire, a psychological scale used in health surveys to indicate symptoms of common mental illness.

The final modelling suggests that those experiencing higher job demands, lower job control and higher job strain were at greater odds of developing mental illness by age 50, regardless of sex or occupational class.

"Our research attempted to account for the possible reasons an individual's work conditions could impact their mental health—and this modelling is the most complete ever published," said Associate Professor Harvey.

"The results indicate that if we were able to eliminate job strain situations in the workplace, up to 14 percent of cases of common mental illness could be avoided.

"Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce , and finding ways to increase workers' perceived control of their is often a good practical first step. This can be achieved through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible."

Explore further: Guidance offered for improving mental health in workplace

More information: Samuel B Harvey et al, The role of job strain in understanding midlife common mental disorder: a national birth cohort study, The Lancet Psychiatry (2018). DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30137-8

Related Stories

Guidance offered for improving mental health in workplace

April 11, 2018
(HealthDay)—Four recommendations for action have been developed for improving mental health in the workplace; the guidance forms the basis for an article published online in the April issue of the Journal of Occupational ...

Training managers can improve workers' mental health

October 11, 2017
Basic mental health training for managers can reap significant benefits for workers' mental wellbeing, a world-first study published today in the prestigious The Lancet Psychiatry suggests.

Job stress might make you sick, study says

July 30, 2015
(HealthDay)—High levels of job stress may increase the risk of sick leave due to mental health disorders, a new study suggests.

One hour of exercise a week can prevent depression

October 3, 2017
A landmark study led by the Black Dog Institute has revealed that regular exercise of any intensity can prevent future depression - and just one hour can help.

Health insurance changes, access to care by patients' mental health status

September 6, 2017
A research letter published by JAMA Psychiatry examined access to care before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and after the ACA for patients grouped by mental health status using a scale to assess mental ...

Workplace wellbeing needs holistic approach

October 10, 2017
Experts from the University of Warwick have contributed to new guidance on promoting positive mental health at work.

Recommended for you

Video game players frequently exposed to graphic content may see world differently

December 13, 2018
People who frequently play violent video games are more immune to disturbing images than non-players, a UNSW-led study into the phenomenon of emotion-induced blindness has shown.

Increased motor activity linked to improved mood

December 12, 2018
Increasing one's level of physical activity may be an effective way to boost one's mood, according to a new study from a team including scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in collaboration with the ...

Length of eye blinks might act as conversational cue

December 12, 2018
Blinking may feel like an unconscious activity, but new research by Paul Hömke and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, suggests that humans unknowingly perceive eye blinks as nonverbal cues when ...

How bullying affects the brain

December 12, 2018
New research from King's College London identifies a possible mechanism that shows how bullying may influence the structure of the adolescent brain, suggesting the effects of constantly being bullied are more than just psychological.

High-dose antipsychotics place children at increased risk of unexpected death

December 12, 2018
Children and young adults without psychosis who are prescribed high-dose antipsychotic medications are at increased risk of unexpected death, despite the availability of other medications to treat their conditions, according ...

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

December 11, 2018
Research in recent years has linked a person's physical or social environment to their well-being. Stress wears down the body and compromises the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illnesses and other conditions. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.