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Stressful jobs double depression, anxiety risk
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August 03, 2007

 tressful jobs double the risk of depression and anxiety in young adults, warn UK researchers.

In a study of 1,000 people, aged 32, researchers found that 45 per cent of the new cases of depression and anxiety could be attributed to high pressure jobs, which involve a lack of control, long hours, non-negotiable deadlines and a high volume of work.

The researchers looked at people who had taken part in a major, long-term study being carried out in Dunedin, New Zealand [Images], to follow their progress through life. These people included actors, brain surgeons, teachers, helicopter pilots, garbage collectors, journalists and policemen.

The subjects were asked if they had workload and time pressures, had to work longer hours than they would like, had too much work to do, whether they had a hectic job, if they were often unclear about what they had to do and if they have to work too hard.

Almost 10 per cent of men and 14 per cent of women suffered a first episode of depression or anxiety over the year-long study. However, the risk was double in people who faced the highest pressure to finish their jobs.

'Our study shows that work stress appears to bring on diagnosable forms of depression and anxiety in previously healthy young workers,' the BBC quoted study leader Dr Maria Melchior, epidemiologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London [Images], as saying.

She said the participants in the study were at an age where they were settling into their careers, and were less likely to have opted out of less stressful jobs.

'There are a number of possible mechanisms -- previous research suggests there could be an effect on stress hormones in the brain which could lead to depression, fatigue and lack of sleep,' she said.

Dr Melchior further said that high-pressure jobs leave people with less time to take part in social activities.

The study, published in Psychological Medicine, suggests that employers need to do more to protect their workers' mental health.

Professor Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Lancaster, UK, said jobs were becoming increasingly pressured.

'We have got to get people to work much more flexibly, using technology to our advantage rather than keeping people in an office environment for long hours,' he said.

'We also need to get managers to behave differently -- manage by praise and reward rather than by punishment. They must understand that people need to feel they have control over their work.'

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