Misery in the workplace is a major risk factor for depression, according to a study published in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Researchers conclude that "the sum total of adverse working conditions explains a substantial portion of the risk of depression in working-age adults," according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), which publishes the journal.
"These findings add to the growing body of evidence that employment is an important source of divergence in mental health across midlife," says the report, authored by Sarah Burgard and her colleagues at the Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan.
Using an approach called item-response theory, the researchers analyzed the relationship between working conditions and depressive symptoms in a nationally representative sample of working-age adults.
The study included four waves of data collection over 15 years in nearly 1,900 respondents.
The results showed that workers with a higher total "negative working conditions score" also had higher scores for depression.
For workers with the total highest scores, negative working conditions accounted for about one-third of the standard deviation in depressive symptoms – "a substantial difference," according to the authors.
The Sum Total of Negative Working Conditions
Past studies of the effects of working conditions on depression risk have tended to focus on only one particular risk factor, such as job strain.
While the new study can't link any particular working condition to depression risk, it helps to show how the sum total of negative working conditions is related to depressive symptoms, according to the ACOEM.
"The study helps to clarify the net effects of working conditions on depression in the working population – a common and costly problem for employers and the U.S. economy at large," the ACOEM said in a news release.
The findings "suggest the need to consider the role of good jobs in enhancing worker productivity and reducing the costs of depression for workers, their families, and healthcare systems," Burgard and her co-authors conclude in the study.