Work-related Stressors and Depression
Although remaining at work or returning to work quickly promotes recovery from depression, work-related stressors can contribute to, exacerbate, or prolong depressive episodes.
Types of work-related stressors include:
- Job strain
- Job strain is characterized by low decision latitude (having little control over the type or pace of work) and high job demands, including competing demands. a
- Occupations with high job strain include mail workers, restaurant workers (waiters & cooks), nurse aides, assemblers, machine operators, electricians, billing clerks & retail managers. b
- Work-life interference
- Work-life interference refers to the increasingly-common spillover of occupational roles and duties into leisure time (i.e., use of email as a primary means of communication can make employees feel that they must be constantly available).
- Work-life interference also results when family responsibilities impair workers’ job performance (i.e., employees often must juggle multiple family demands, including care-giving for children and older adults). c
- Workplace discrimination or harassment
- Hostile and threatening interactions, particularly between supervisors and employees, are associated with increased risk of depression.
- Job insecurity
- Particularly during difficult economic times, job insecurity impairs worker performance and morale.
Many sources of work-related stress can be reduced or potentially eliminated with proactive workplace policies.
a. Karasek. (1979) “Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 24:285-307.
b. Karasek, Theorell, Schwartz, et al. (1988) “Job characteristics in relation to the prevalence of myocardial infarction.” American Journal of Public Health, 78:910-18.
c. Family life and work life: An uneasy balance. (2009) Report of the Vanier Institute of the Family.