This article courtesy of the Australian site, ABC News.
At a time when the Prime Minister is famously burning the midnight oil and encouraging public servants to do the same, public health researcher Tony LaMontagne says our jobs are actually making us sick.
“Most people like to work hard at their job, but there is a limit and when you go over that, it’s not good for anyone,” he told AM.
Associate Professor LaMontagne found nearly one in five working women with depression can attribute it to their job and one in eight depressed working men have problems because of work stress.
“Part of it maybe through effects on self-esteem, part of it maybe through cortisol pathways, it isn’t entirely clear,” he said.
But what is clear is that those in lower skill level jobs are most vulnerable.
“It’s a matter of not having the ability to decide how to get the work done that they’re asked to do,” he said.
“The combination of high demands and low control in a job is what makes it particularly bad.”
And Associate Professor LaMontagne says the tendency for women to inhabit lower paid jobs means they’re more at risk than men.
“There’s still, I think, persisting power and balances as between men and women in the workplace that also are in the wider society,” he said.
Associate Professor LaMontagne says the studies point to work actually causing the depression, rather than exacerbating an existing condition.
“There are studies that we get the increase in risk from work like this: you start at one point in time and you discount anyone with depression at that stage, you look at the quality of their job and you follow them into the future and you look at new cases or incident cases,” he said.
“And you also account, in doing that, for people’s income, for their education level, for age.
“And also, in most studies, for personality because in some cases in could be a matter of negative personality that’s contributing as well.
“And so the doubling of risk of depression that I describe is after accounting for all those other known contributors.”
The statistics mean in Victoria alone 21,000 workers each year suffer from depression that’s work-related, with similar predictions likely for other states.
Todd Harper is the CEO of VicHealth with 15 years’ experience in public health.
“I think one of the things that we can do is to actually convince workplaces that this information is important, that they actually stand to benefit out of this because in a time of workforce shortage, the most valuable employees are the ones that you already have, keeping them healthy is the priority,” he said.
“Simply increasing the demands on staff comes with consequences and I think workplaces are aware of that, they can start to design their work in a more efficient and productive way.”
Based on a report by Jane Cowan for AM