Work Stress

Last week I wrote about why you should consider leaving your work at work. This week brings us a study about times when you might want to think about leaving your work, period.

In a systematic meta-review of previous studies looking at the relationship between work and mental health, researchers narrowed in on specific kinds of jobs that seem to be especially harmful for mental health.

In particular, they found three broad characteristics of jobs that are associated with increased risk for anxiety and depression:

  • A lack of balance
  • High uncertainty
  • Low value and respect in the workplace

Within these three categories, the researchers linked a number of more specific job traits to anxiety and depression:

  • Being under high job demands
  • Having low job control
  • Putting in more effort for less reward
  • Experiencing injustice in terms of how you’re treated or what you have to do
  • Being in a stressful role
  • Being bullied
  • Having little social support

In the course of the review, the researchers found multiple studies linking each factor to anxiety or depression. While untangling cause-and-effect wasn’t part of the study, it’s not a big jump to entertain the possibility that these factors could be directly harmful to mental health.

After all, previous research has suggested that work satisfaction can have a big effect on overall life satisfaction. For example, a 2012 study found a correlation between work burnout and work engagement on one hand and life satisfaction on the other.

The nice thing about the most recent meta-review, though, is that it identifies specific aspects of jobs that seem to be especially bad for mental health. It pools together multiple studies to find job characteristics consistently linked to anxiety and depression. Looking at these factors, then, can give a more precise view of why your work may especially stressful or rewarding.

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