Poor management can push workers into depression

Oct 04 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Management failures - in particular failing to support workers who don't feel able to cope - play a key part in contributing to workplace-related stress, with those workers who are most stressed much more likely to be tipped over into depression.

A study of more than 24,000 workers in Canada has found that nearly five per cent suffered from depression in the past year, with those under heavy stress at work at increased risk.

The study, reported in the American Journal of Public Health, has added to a weight of evidence gathered by doctors over the past few years arguing that chronic job stress can lead to an array of other health problems.

These include high blood pressure and heart disease as well as depression.

What's more, a lack of support from colleagues, co-workers and, critically, managers is now seen as a significant factor in contributing to workplace-related stress.

One of the difficulties for managers on both sides of the Atlantic is working out how much of what many workers describe as stress is related to their workplaces or to their home life.

There is also the difficulty that no two workers will respond to the same pressurised workplace conditions in the same way, with some thriving on the "buzz" and others struggling.

But what is clear from the latest research is that, wherever it is coming from, stress is something that employers need to be tackling if they do not want to see their employees calling in sick for an array of other illnesses and conditions.

The AJPH research, led by Dr Emma Robertson Blackmore, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical School in New York, found that men who reported high job strain were more than twice as likely to suffer depression as men who were low on the job-strain scale.

For this study, "high job strain" was defined as work that was demanding but left people with a sense of little independence or decision-making authority.

Among women, the picture was somewhat different. Just one component of job strain – the lack of decision-making authority – was related back to depression.

While it was not yet completely why there was this difference between men and women, it could have something to do with the types of jobs many women took, the research argued.

Women are more likely than men to take part-time jobs, often perceived as being less stressful, to balance work and family.

But one measure of job stress – lack of support from co-workers and supervisors – was related to depression in both men and women, the study found.

Dr Robertson Blackmore called for depression prevention work by employers, more screening and better treatment.

Workers who, for instance, had access to "care managers" as part of their employer healthcare plan and who were able to guide them through treatment generally had greater improvements in their symptoms, she pointed out.

They were also more productive on the job than co-workers who only received standard care, working an average of two more hours per week over the course of a year.


Older Comments

What do you do with 'poor' managers and supervisors who believe they are better than they are?

Often time there is, 'I do not care, just get it done,' mantra. This is causing more mediocracy, thus decreacing they value of the person.

Keith Kansas City

We actually have hotel managers managing my department in a hospital. They're sodexo managers. believe me, this doesn't work. we should have experienced hospital employees managing my dept. My shift manager can't connect the dots and messes up everyone's day. if someone gets to the breaking point and lets it out, they get a 'think day'. management should have a 'think day'. Just a bunch of dummies. morale is so low and everyone wants to leave. We're working on it!