Too much job strain can lead to depression by age 50, researchers warn

SYDNEY — Work driving you mad? It may be time to make some changes for a more positive experience at the office. A new study finds that job strain raises a person’s risk of suffering from mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, particularly in middle-age employees.

Stress on the job is linked a slew of immediate negative health effects, from exercising and sleeping less to poor eating habits to an increased risk of suffering a heart attack. Now researchers from the Black Dog Institute in Australia say that workers regularly experiencing a notable level of strain are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition by age 50.

Person at desk feeling stressed
A new study finds that job strain raises a person’s risk of suffering from mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, particularly in middle-age employees.

“Our modeling used detailed data collected over 50 years to examine the various ways in which particular work conditions may impact an employee’s mental health,” says lead author Samuel Harvey, an associate professor at the institute, in a release.

Harvey says that workplaces that take action to help reduce job strain — defined as “high work pace, intensity, and conflicting demands, coupled with low control or decision-making capacity” — on its employees can actually prevent up to 14 percent of new cases of common mental ailments.

For the study, Harvey and his team examined nearly 6,900 participants from the UK National Child Development Study. The study followed more than 17,000 participants from England, Scotland, or Wales all born in the same week in 1958, receiving information on their health, education, and socioeconomic outcomes, along with other aspects of their well-being throughout their lives.

Specifically, they sought to find out if participants who experienced job strain at age 45 were more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness by age 50.

To reach their results, the authors looked at questionnaires the participants completed when they were 45. The surveys asked individuals about their authority level when it came to making decisions at work, along with questions about job pace, intensity, and conflicting demands. They were also polled on any non-work-related issues like marital problems, financial strain, and other major life stressors.

Then at age 50, the individuals were asked to complete a commonly-used psychological questionnaire that tests for symptoms of common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

After controlling for factors like an individual’s personality, IQ, mental health history, and other related issues over a person’s lifetime, the researchers found that participants who dealt with greater job demands, lower job control, and higher job strain were more likely to have a mental illness at age 50.

“These findings serve as a wake-up call for the role workplace initiatives should play in our efforts to curb the rising costs of mental disorders,” says Harvey. “It’s important to remember that for most people, being in work is a good thing for their mental health. But this research provides strong evidence that organizations can improve employee wellbeing by modifying their workplaces to make them more mentally healthy.”

Harvey says it’s important for company leaders to place a heavy focus on creating a comfortable and low-stress work environment. One way to do that is to make employees feel more empowered by boosting their level of authority over their work.

“Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce job strain, and finding ways to increase workers’ perceived control of their work is often a good practical first step,” says “This can be achieved through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible.”

The Black Dog Institute has a “When To Seek Help” section on its website for anyone who believes they may be experiencing harmful levels of job stress.

The full study was published May 10, 2018 in The Lancet Psychiatry.


  1. This problem exists in the US due to the fact that on average we get 5 days of vacation each year plus a few holidays.

    1. I remember a time when you got christmas and 4th of july and you were happy with it, who really needs vacations? this is a phenomenon of the unions and it made us weaker, not stronger

  2. is this really news??? what we might need, instead, are less snowflakes and more people with inner strength and the will to survive.

    1. Might not be “news”, depending on the awareness of the individual. But it doesn’t hurt anything to focus attention on what really CAN be a source of chronic frustration and desperation on the job.

      There are lots of cases where an energetic and capable employee finds themself at the mercy of a self-serving and short-sighted supervisor who demands that the subordinate perform improper or even illegal tasks intended to show the supervisor in a favorable light. Over time, this kind of toxic work environment absolutely can take a toll on the mental well-being of the subordinate. It’s worthwhile to remind people that situations like this can and do exist, news or not.

      1. the solution is simple for someone with self-determination, find a new job or confront the individual. whining and waiting is sure to get you sicker.

      2. Ok, I will give you this one because it’s basically how i lived my life. Just remember that each individual has their own circumstances.

      3. that is true, but some, as they are now, will be only a drag on this nation and they are too full of themselves to understand that

    2. You are a complete idiot. But I bet if someone badmouthed your god-king Trump you’d cry about it. Every time I see someone write “snowflake,” I automatically know they have a low IQ.

      1. and everytime I see someone using an epithet rather than facts, I know I have a liberal/prog. you ironically expose yourself every time you speak, but don’t worry, fewer and fewer are paying attention these days to what you say.

      2. I’ll go along with this too. Progs are a cancer destroying this (free) society.

      3. LMAO….because I think the overused term “snowflake” is idiotic, that makes me a “liberal/prog”? The idiocy is deep with this one.

      4. And you produced no “facts” just opinions and “snowflake” is an epithet itself. Pot meet kettle.

      5. With all of the labels and insults you and your kind have heaped on conservatives, “snowflake,” is pretty tame.

      6. I am not a liberal. But I am not a mindless idiot who calls everyone “snowflakes.”

  3. Why is mass immigration and “diversity” demanded in ALL white populations and ONLY white populations?

    Why is no global place or institution ever “too yellow” and “too black”?

    Why is Open Borders a white ‘privilege’?

    Does “diversity” just mean Chasing Down Whitey?

    That’s why we say #White Geno Cide
    That’s why we say #Anti White

  4. goodness! another pat little report with all kinds of simple words. gee, I hope I don’t get ‘mental illness’.

  5. I think its the bills I will always have to pay which I find depressing. Its the chain which really drags me down.
    Like property taxes, and water and electric bills. They assure you always have to worry about money. You would think when your house is paid off there would be no more taxes owed, I mean after all who pays perpetual taxes on anything else they buy? and water and electricity, you have to have and pay for that till you die or in many states they will condemn your property. No they have us chained where you can never get rid of that worry about money. Thats what I find depressing.

  6. Work makes you mentally ill, but changing your gender is perfectly normal. Go figure.

  7. LOL – So how do they explain the mental illness of liberals, who do little that can be called productive other than whine and moan?

  8. Really strange how Americans built this country out of a wilderness with generations of hard work with none of those kinds of problems. I think it must be all those entitled millenial snowflakes their decendants have spawned.

  9. It doesn’t take a study to know that greedy billionaire executive are demanding more and paying their employees poverty wages. Ask any Amazon employee about their hostile workplace and how they need foodstamps (EBT) just to feed their family. Yet the Bezos, Zuckerberg and other globalists proclaim to be progressive socialists. People were treated better in Soviet gulags than how these globalist (narcissists/psychopaths) treat their employees. It’s even worse for Apple’s Foxconn ‘prisoners’ in China are forced to work 18 hrs days and can’t even leave the factories. A few years ago, they had to install ‘suicide nets’ because so many workers were jumping out windows. Slavery is alive and well in today’s globalist economy.

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