Risk of depression three times more likely in toxic workplaces

August 16, 2021
Risk of depression three times more likely in toxic workplaces

A study of full-time workers in Australia has revealed how toxic work environments pose a significant risk of depression – by at least three times. While depression and mental health at large is still of little concern to many employees, it can quickly deteriorate productivity and lead to functional impairment, elevated morbidity, and destructive social consequences.

Amy Zadow, of the Psychosocial Safety Climate Observatory, and a team of researchers from the University of South Australia followed nearly 1,000 workers to see who among them is diagnosed with serious depression, as well as the nature of their workplaces and other factors.

Read also: China study shows how drinking tea may lower the risk of depression in older adults

The researchers used a standard scale that asked workers to agree or disagree with a set of statements to get an idea on mental health issues around the workplace. They measured toxicity by how well companies communicated to their employees about mental health issues and how to treat them, or how actively companies encouraged workers to be nice to each other and look out for each other’s mental health, for example.

Results showed that workers employed by organisations that failed to prioritise their employees’ mental health had a threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression; and while working long hours was a key factor of depression, poor management practices represented an even greater risk.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 22% of the global working population, or 614 million workers, are working long hours — more than 48 hours per week. This has become an especially severe problem amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with a growing number of people working extra hours as they clock into office.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” said Zadow.

“Overly engaged workers might tend to become workaholics ignoring early signals of depressed mood, continue working and develop major depressive disorders. These findings suggest that policymakers and clinicians should focus the efforts on improving the [work] climate for psychological health.”

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Category: Education, Features

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