High job strain may increase the risk of developing common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety among middle-aged workers. However, reducing their job strain can prevent new cases from occurring, reveals a new study.
Job strain is a term used to describe the combination of high work pace, intensity, and conflicting demands, coupled with low control or decision-making capacity.
"The results indicate that if we were able to eliminate job strain situations in the workplace, up to 14 percent of cases of common mental illness could be avoided," said lead author Samuel Harvey, Associate Professor at the Black Dog Institute in Australia. The findings were published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.
To determine levels of job strain, 6,870 participants completed questionnaires at age 45 testing for factors including decision authority, skill discretion and questions about job pace, intensity and conflicting demands.
The researchers also accounted for non-workplace factors including divorce, financial problems, housing instability, and other stressful life events like death or illness.
The models developed in this study controlled for individual workers' temperament and personality, their IQ, level of education, prior mental health problems and a range of other factors from across their early lives.
The final modelling suggested that those experiencing higher job demands, lower job control and higher job strain were at greater odds of developing mental illness by age 50, regardless of sex or occupational class.
"Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce job strain, and finding ways to increase workers' perceived control of their work is often a good practical first step. This can be achieved through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible," Harvey, who is also affiliated with the University of New South Wales in Australia, noted.