Continuous workplace strain causes depression

By Sheryl Kay • Published: January 31st, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Everyone gets depressed now and then.

But clinically diagnosed depression is an entirely different situation, one that affects close to 20 million men, women and children in the United States alone. Not only do disorders related to depression cause breakups in families and friendships, but they can lead to many secondary diseases and problems. In fact, depressive disorders result in more absence from the workplace than almost any other physical disorder and cost employers upward of 51 billion dollars a year in lost productivity, not including soaring medical and pharmaceutical expenses.

In an effort to help ameliorate the disease before it takes hold, researchers have been looking into causes. One such study shows that it is the workplace itself that is producing more cases of serious depression.

Recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study used data from a 10-year investigation of work-related stress and depression in more than 7,000 civil servants.

At the beginning of their assessment, the investigators defined job strain according to the work demand of a specific job, as well as the decision-making power employees had. Then, over the course of the study, the researchers measured the participants’ strain on three different occasions, and correlated those findings with a one-time assessment of depression in each person.

The final analysis showed that not only was repeated job strain associated with an increased risk of major depressive disorders, but those individuals who had experienced the strain on two or three occasions were twice as likely to be diagnosed with depressive disorders.

Resolving issues of job strain could lessen the risk of depressive disorders in employees. For employers, this could mean a healthier workplace, money saved, and stable, happy employees.