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When employers don’t heed mental health, workers’ risk of depression goes up: study

Photo: FG Trade/iStockphoto

Adelaide, Australia — Employers who don’t prioritize worker psychological health increase their workers’ risk of major depression symptoms, results of a recent study led by researchers from the University of South Australia show.

The yearlong study involved nearly 1,100 randomly selected adult full-time workers in Australia. Using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing system to collect data, the researchers examined the relationship between psychosocial safety climate, work engagement, long working hours and new cases of major depression symptoms.

“Psychosocial safety climate is the term used to describe management practices and communication and participation systems that protect workers’ mental health and safety,” a university press release states.

Results show that workplaces with a low psychosocial safety climate had a threefold increase in new cases of major depression. Working long hours (41-48 hours or 55-plus hours, specifically) also was linked to the development of major depression symptoms.


Because psychosocial safety climate relates to management values and impacts working conditions, the researchers hypothesize that an organization that has a low psychosocial safety climate could lead to workers being pressed into long hours on the job.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression,” lead study author Amy Zadow, a research fellow at the university, said in the release.

The study was published online June 23 in the journal BMJ Open.

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