Study Finds that a Stressful Workplace Increases Depression among Workers

A study of over 3000 workers, conducted in Finland, found that workers who reported stress and poor team spirit in their workplaces were 60% more likely to report being depressed and 50% more likely to take antidepressants.

Was a study needed to determine this?

A study of over 3000 workers, conducted in Finland, found that workers who reported stress and poor team spirit in their workplaces were 60% more likely to report being depressed and 50% more likely to take antidepressants. The researchers concluded that since most people spend a significant amount of time at work, the workplace climate becomes an important contributor to workers' psychological well-being. This makes perfect sense; you would expect to find fewer depressed people in "happy" work environments than in "toxic" workplaces. Was a study needed to explore this relationship? Probably not, since most people likely know and expect stressful workplaces to negatively impact mental health.

This study has generated a number of responses from the healthcare community. Among them is the question of workplace stress causing depression or is it the other way around—to what degree does depression contribute to workplace stress? And from a nursing perspective, it seems to me that a large number of Finnish workers are taking antidepressants. There was no information in the study report about utilization of psychotherapy or other non-pharmacologic approaches to treating depression.

While the study findings are not surprising, they again remind us that the workplace environment may be stressful and in some cases "toxic." I would hope that screening for depression would be available and offered in these settings, and that the treatment of depression, when diagnosed, would be evidence-based and include non-pharmacologic measures in addition to antidepressants.

Source: Sinokki M, Hinkka K, Ahola K, et al. The association between team climate at work and mental health in the Finnish Health 2000 Study. Occup Environ Med 2009; April 9 (published online in advance of print publication).