Job Stress Correlates With Depression Risk, Study Finds
> 10/4/2007 9:55:58 AM

Following in the wake of last week's NIMH report regarding work and depression, a new study set to appear in next month's American Journal of Public Health digs deeper into the question of employment and depression risk. This new study, lead by Dr. Emma Robertson Blackmore of the University of Rochester Medical School, was unique in its size. By using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, Robertson Blackmore and her team were able to examine information on over 24,000 individuals.

The team found that nearly 5% of participants had a major depressive episode in the course of the last year. Men were less likely (3.4%) than women (6%) to have experienced an epsiode. The study's findings, according to a press release from the university, show that men and women have different risk factors for major depression associated with their workplace experience:

High job strain, low levels of social support in the workplace, low job security and increased psychological demands were associated with major depressive episodes among men, according to the study. Among women, lower levels of social support and lack of decision authority were associated with major depressive episodes.

These specific findings are the real key to this new study as they point to potential areas of improvement. Some jobs are stressful, and that probably will not change. Similarly, the nature of ones position, and the decision making authority it entails will also not likely change dramatically without a promotion. Instead, companies and managers need to focus on the specific areas in which they can improve. In both men and women, a lack of social support in the workplace was found to correlate with depression risk. While it may be unrealistic to hope that all workers would be friends, it is not unrealistic to find ways that may engender camaraderie and personal growth in the workplace environment.

The water cooler and break room once represented the communal meeting places of office workers, and in many companies they still do. But those elements are not present in every work environment, and thus executives and managers need to find solutions that will benefit their company.

Making supportive services available for individual employees who are having difficulties is also a major piece of this. By having a discreet and confidential place to discuss work related or even personal issues, workers can unload some of their stresses and be more productive in their jobs. The trouble is that when these service are located within the workplace, stigma often attaches as individuals are afraid of being viewed as troubled or weak. Utilizing a help line or online service can eliminate much of this concern, but these types of efforts must be backed with the appropriate tools and support. Identifying strategies to cut down on work stress and its potential outcomes must be a focus of any successful company, as this study, like those that have come before it, points to the negative consequences of not addressing the problem.

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