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“Job Strain” Accounts for 14 Percent of Mental Illnesses Like Depression, Anxiety

Being stressed on the job can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, and that’s bad for employees and employers alike.
Stressed worker
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Recently, we learned the stress associated with American workplaces leads to 120,000 deaths a year. Now, we’re finding out that, “Some 14 percent of common mental illnesses could be prevented by reducing job strain,” according to MarketWatch.

Job Strain’s Impact on Mental Illness

According to a study recently released by Australian mental health nonprofit The Black Dog Institute, high job strain is associated with an increased risk of developing common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety among middle-aged workers.

Explains Medical News Today, “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.

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The study showed that, by the age of 50, workers who had experienced higher job strain were up to 14 percent more likely to develop a common form of mental illness.

“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,” explained professor Samuel Harvey, of The Black Dog Institute.

More Work = Lower Performance

More bad news: We recently learned, via Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, that the stress associated with American workplaces leads to 120,000 deaths a year. And now we’re adding various forms of mental illness to the list of chronic illnesses associated with high levels of stress or overwork while on the job.

And it seems workers continue to work themselves to death – or are pushed into working themselves to death by their employers – despite the fact that the most productive workers actually do less.

According to a recent study at U.C. Berkeley, performance declines if workers are investing beyond 50 hours a week in their job.

Unfortunately, some employers don’t seem to be heading this science, and corporate power means organizations “can generally afford to treat employees like cheap and disposable commodities,” according to Jeff Spross in The Week.

However, given the strong employment market, this may soon start to change.

Consider Your Mental Health

Given you’re likely to be healthier and more productive if you experience reasonable levels of stress on the job and work reasonable hours, it’d behoove you to find ways of making sure those things happen. For example, you should make a habit of leaving work on time. If that sounds difficult, perhaps some of these tips will help.

And maybe you should finally take a vacation. American workers took more vacation than any year since 2013 last year, and their time off actually made them better employees when they returned; When employees take time off, there seems to be a corresponding “spike in both self and peer-reported creativity, happiness and productivity.” Makes sense, because studies have shown that happy employees are “approximately 12 percent more productive.”

Lastly, if you are dealing with depression, anxiety or any other mental illness – whether brought on by work-related stress or not – seek professional help. Like other ailments, mental illnesses are real and debilitating, and they should be treated by medical professionals.

If you're battling depression, anxiety or any other mental illness – whether brought on by work-related stress or not – seek professional help. Mental illnesses are real and debilitating, and they should be treated by medical professionals.Click To Tweet

Tell Us What You Think

Have you experienced mental health issues brought on by job strain? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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