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Improvements in work conditions lead to improved mental health (Australia)

June 2, 2011

A study recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that improving three specific working conditions results in corresponding improvements in depression and anxiety in employees.

A study conducted by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University used data from a self-administered questionnaire completed by 1,975 employees ranging in age from 40 to 48 years. Data was collected in 2000 and again in 2004 with ninety-three percent of the same employees responding for both periods. The work conditions tested were job security, job condition (use of skills and decision making autonomy) and job demand (workload). The study controlled for variables such as personality and education level.

The results showed that an increase in job demand from 2000 to 2004 resulted in increased anxiety, but not depression. However, a change in job control and job insecurity saw deterioration in both depression and anxiety. Depression seemed to predict a drift into poorer job conditions. If poorer job conditions were present at the outset of the study, an increase in anxiety was demonstrated at second stage data collection.

The authors note that this study could have implications for deteriorating mental health in the workforce if businesses continue to take cost-saving measures at the expense of work conditions.

To read the article, go to www.jech.bmj.com.

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