In touch : High pressure jobs linked to depression and anxiety

Work-related stress is cause of clinical depression and anxiety among young adults, according to new research from Dunedin. study of almost 900 32-year-olds, found that 14 percent of women and 10 percent of men experience stress at work – and with no prior mental health problems – had first episode of depression or anxiety at age 32.
The findings, published in the UK journal Psychological Medicine, come out of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Study at the University of Otago, which has followed 1000 Dunedin-born people since their birth in 1972/73. At age 32, study members were asked about psychological and physical job demands, the level of control they had in decision-making, and social support structures at work.
The findings were that women who reported high psychological job demands, such as working long hours, working under pressure or without clear direction, were 75 percent more likely to suffer from clinical depression or general anxiety disorder than women who reported the lowest level of psychological job demands.
Men with high psychological job demands were 80 percent more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety disorders than men with lower demands. Men with low levels of social support at work were also found to be at increased risk of depression, anxiety or both.
The researchers found that almost half of the cases of depression or generalised anxiety disorder newly diagnosed at age 32 were directly related to workplace stress and high job demands.
“More people are being exposed to stress at work, and stress rates have increased in the past 10 years. We now know that work-related stress is associated with psychiatric health problems that increase health-care and societal costs and reduce work productivity. It’s vicious cycle but one that can be broken with the right interventions,” says Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development study director professor Richie Poulton.
According to the reserachers’ investigations, in both the United States and Europe, 30-40 percent of the workforce is exposed to workplace stress, and levels of stress appear to have been rising over the past two decades. They suggest company-wide decreases in work demands could help reduce rates of depression and anxiety among the workforce. At an individual level, developing coping skills and relaxation techniques may be an important step towards reducing stress, and therefore depression and anxiety levels..
New Zealand employment legislation formally recognises “physical or mental harm caused by work-
related stress” in the 2002 Amendment to the Health and Safety in Employment Act of 1992. In terms of employment legislation, stress by itself is not considered medical diagnosis, but rather as sign of an employee failing to cope with their work or environmental situation. Stress is seen as potential indicator of emerging health problems and employers are obligated to take reasonable steps to eliminate, isolate or minimise the risk of stress on the job.

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