Stressed Out Middle-aged Workers Have Higher Risk of Mental Health Issues

Featured on Reuters. Author: Lisa Rapaport

Middle-aged adults who feel stressed, powerless or overworked on the job may be more likely to develop mental health problems in the coming years than more contented coworkers, a recent study suggests.

For the study, researchers examined data from questionnaires completed by 6,870 workers in the UK who, at age 45, had never been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or other common mental illnesses. Overall, about one-third reported having little control over what they did at work and slightly more than one-fourth described their jobs as very demanding and stressful.

By age 50, workers who reported high levels of job strain five years earlier were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders as the people who had low-stress jobs, researchers report in The Lancet Psychiatry.

With demanding jobs, workers were 70 percent more likely to develop a mental illness by age 50, the study also found. And people who reported having little control over their work were 89 percent more likely to be diagnosed with psychological disorders.

“Several studies published over the past decade have suggested a link between workplace stress and poor mental health outcomes amongst employees,” said lead study author Samuel Harvey, head of the workplace mental health research program at the Black Dog Institute at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

“However, it has always been difficult to work out which came first: difficult work situations or mental health problems - the classic chicken or egg situation,” Harvey said by email.

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