In a study of 1,000 people, aged 32, the researchers found that 45 per cent of new cases of depression and anxiety were attributable to high-pressure jobs, which involve a lack of control, long hours, non-negotiable deadlines, and a high volume of work.
The researchers looked at people who had taken part in a major, long-term study being carried out in Dunedin, New Zealand, to follow their progress through life. These people included actress, brain surgeon, teacher, helicopter pilot, dustbin man, journalist and policeman.
The study subjects were asked if they had workload and time pressures, had to work longer hours than they would like, had too much work to do, and whether they had a hectic job and were often unclear about what they had to do and have to work too hard.
Almost 10 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women suffered a first episode of depression or anxiety over the year-long study. However, the risk was double in people who faced the highest pressure while to finish their jobs.
"Our study shows that work stress appears to bring on diagnosable forms of depression and anxiety in previously healthy young workers," the BBC quoted study leader Dr Maria Melchior, epidemiologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, as saying.
She said that participants in the study were at an age where they were settling into their careers, and were less likely to have opted out of less stressful jobs.
"There are a number of possible mechanisms - previous research suggests there could be an effect on stress hormones in the brain which could lead to depression, also fatigue and lack of sleep," she said.
Dr Melchior further said that high-pressure jobs leave people with less time to take part in social activities.
The study published in Psychological Medicine suggests that employers need to do more to protect workers' mental health.
Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Lancaster said jobs were becoming increasingly pressured.
"We have got to get people to work much more flexibly, using technology to our advantage rather than keeping people in an office environment for long hours," said Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Lancaster.
"Also we need to get managers to behave differently - manage by praise and reward rather than by punishment and understand that people need to feel they have control over their work," added Prof. Cooper.