work stress

Depression Risk Triples When Worker Mental Health Is Not Supported


Australian researchers have found that when organizations don’t take care of worker mental health, those employees are three times as likely to become depressed.

Long working hours may also increase their risk for major depression.

In addition, high worker engagement may lead to longer working hours and the subsequent development of depression.

How work climate impacts worker mental health

In order to examine the issue, the team looked at whether long working hours, psychosocial safety climate (PSC), or work engagement (WE) would have any influence on whether the workers developed major depression symptoms over the 12-month duration of the study.

Psychosocial safety climate is a term used to describe the work climate supporting psychological health, including such things as management practices and communication.

Work engagement refers to the emotional commitment that an employee has to their job.

Altogether, 1,084 Australians with full-time jobs were included in the study.

Anyone who was self-employed, casual temporary, unclassified, or who worked less than 35 hours per week was not included in the study. Also, anyone who was already suffering from depression was excluded.

The researchers then looked to see who developed major depressive disorder over the next year.

The team found that when they removed any mild depression cases, long work hours (41-48 and greater than or equal to 55 hours weekly) was linked to the development of major depression.

Low PSC increased the risk for major depression by a factor of three, with the link being stronger for men than for women.

Additionally, they found that WE was associated with working longer hours, which could in turn lead to the development of major depression symptoms.

According to the study’s lead author, Amy Zadow, PhD, a registered Psychologist and Research Associate at the University of South Australia, when there are poor management practices, values, and priorities, this creates high job demands and low resources.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” she said.

Mauren Dollard, PhD, an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, Director of the PSC Observatory, and Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham, said that their study found that, while committed and enthusiastic employees are valued in the workplace, working long hours can still lead to depression.

Men are especially more prone to depression, she said, if employers are not giving worker mental health the attention it needs.

What to do if your job is making you depressed

The first step in dealing with depression on the job is recognizing that you are feeling depressed.

Signs and symptoms of depression include: missing work, having problems concentrating, missing deadlines and goals, feeling depressed when you are on the job, and feeling tired and lacking energy.

If you feel like you may be dealing with depression, the next thing you should do is to seek professional help. If your job has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), you may be able to get access to free counseling or therapy through that. Or, check into what your insurance will provide.

Professional help may involve simply talking with someone about your feelings or it could involve taking medications. Often a combination of both can be the most helpful.

You can also supplement professional help by reaching out to your friends and family for support.

If workplace stress is getting you down, plan some time off to give you a break.

During your work day, it can also be helpful to take breaks or to get a change of scenery. For example, take a quick walk outside or plan your lunch break to be away from your work area.

Finally, practice good self-care. Do things you enjoy, get out in the sun, listen to music, or exercise. Be kind to yourself. Make sure you are taking care of your own needs. Even though you can’t control what your employer is doing or how they treat you, you do have control over how you treat yourself.

Photo by Yan Krukov from Tagged

Nancy Schimelpfening, MS

Nancy Schimelpfening is the founder of Depression Sanctuary. Unless otherwise stated, all of the content on Depression Sanctuary is written by and maintained by Nancy. Nancy has a master’s degree in community health education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She was the (now expert on depression from 1998-2016. She has also written for other online publications, including Healthline, Health Digest, and MindBodyGreen.