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Job-related stress can increase risk of depression and premature death

Experts fear that heavy workloads can have lasting effects on consumers’ mental health

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While many consumers struggle to find that perfect work-life balance, a new study explored how work-related stressors can impact consumers’ mental health. 

According to researchers from Indiana University, consumers can be at an increased risk of depressive symptoms and premature death when their jobs come with excessive stress. 

“We examined how job control -- or the amount of autonomy employees have at work -- and cognitive ability -- or people’s ability to learn and solve problems -- influence how work stressors such as time pressure or workload affect mental and physical health and, ultimately, death,” said researcher Erik Gonzaelz-Mulé. “We found that work stressors are more likely to cause depression and death as a result of jobs in which workers have little or for people with lower cognitive ability.” 

Managing stress

To understand the relationship between work and stress, and the subsequent health effects, the researchers evaluated over 3,100 responses to the Midlife in the U.S. Survey. Participants reported on their current job status, their stress levels, and their attitudes towards their jobs. 

The study revealed that consumers’ feelings about their jobs can greatly influence their mental and physical health. The findings showed that being loaded down with job-induced stressors, or having too many responsibilities, can increase the likelihood that consumers’ mental health takes a hit. Similarly, the same risk is likely when consumers feel as though they have no freedom or control over their job. 

“When job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration of their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death,” Gonzaelz-Mulé said. 

Control is key

Control was an important factor for many of the participants. The researchers found that when workers felt more autonomy in their job responsibilities, they reported better physical and mental health outcomes. 

With many consumers now working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, job roles and attitudes about work in general are being seen and felt in a different light. It’s important for both employees and employers to consider the toll that work can have on overall well-being. 

“COVID-19 might be causing more mental health issues, so it’s particularly important that work not exacerbate those problems” said Gonzaelz-Mulé. “This includes managing and perhaps reducing employee demands, being aware of employees’ cognitive capability to handle demands, and providing employees with autonomy are even more important than before the pandemic began.” 

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