Toxic workplaces increase risk of depression by 300%

An Australian population year round study found that full-time workers employed by organizations that do not prioritize the mental health of their employees have a three times higher risk of being diagnosed with depression.

And while working long hours is a risk factor for dying from cardiovascular disease or having a stroke, poor management practices pose a higher risk for depression, the researchers found.

The University of South Australia (UniSA) study, published in the British medical journal, is led by UniSA’s Psychosocial Safety Climate Observatory, the world’s first research platform exploring psychological health and safety at work.

Psychosocial Climate of Safety (PSC) is the term used to describe management practices and systems of communication and participation that protect the mental health and safety of workers.

Lead author Dr Amy Zadow argues that poor mental health in the workplace can be attributed to poor management practices, priorities and values, which then translate into high job demands and low resources.

“Evidence shows that companies that do not reward or recognize their employees for hard work, place unreasonable demands on workers and do not empower them, put their staff at a much higher risk of depression,” explains Zadow.

Internationally renowned expert in mental health at work, Australian Research Council Laureate Professor Maureen Dollard, says the study found that while enthusiastic and engaged workers are valued, working long hours can lead to loss. depression. Men are also more likely to become depressed if their workplace pays little attention to their psychological health.

Due to the global burden of depression, which affects an estimated 300 million people worldwide and shows no signs of abating despite available treatments, more attention is now being paid to poorly functioning work environments that could contribute to problem.

High levels of burnout and bullying at work are also linked to the inability of companies to support the mental health of workers.

A second article co-authored by Dollard and published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology earlier this month, found that a low PSC was a strong predictor of bullying and emotional burnout.

“The lack of consultation with employees and unions on occupational health and safety issues, and the lack of support for stress prevention, are linked to low SSC in companies,” says Dollard. “We have also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the abuser and the team members who witness the behavior. It is not uncommon for everyone in the same unit to experience burnout.

In this study, we investigated bullying in a group setting and why it occurs. Sometimes stress is a trigger for bullying and in the worst case it can set an “acceptable” level of behavior for other team members. Most importantly, bullying can be predicted from a company’s commitment to mental health, so it can be prevented. “

The overall costs of workplace bullying and worker burnout are significant, manifested in absenteeism, low engagement at work, stress time off, and low productivity.

The scale of the problem was recognized in 2019 with the establishment by the International Labor Organization (ILO) of a Global Commission on the Future of Work and calling for “a human-centered approach, placing people and the work they do at the center of business policy and practice.

“The practical implications of this research are considerable. High levels of burnout are extremely costly for organizations and it is clear that high level organizational change is needed to resolve the issue, ”Dollard said.

– This press release was originally posted on the University of South Australia website

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