Occup Environ Med 60:489-496 doi:10.1136/oem.60.7.489
  • Original article

Psychosocial conditions on and off the job and psychological ill health: depressive symptoms, impaired psychological wellbeing, heavy consumption of alcohol

  1. H Michélsen1,
  2. C Bildt2
  1. 1Department of Education, Stockholm University, Sweden
  2. 2Gender and Work, National Institute for Working Life, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr H Michélsen, Department of Education, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden; 
  • Accepted 11 October 2002


Background: Psychiatric epidemiology has revealed a number of associations between gender, socioeconomic status, and psychiatric disorders.

Aims: To examine psychosocial conditions on and off the job in relation to psychological ill health.

Methods: Longitudinal design with 24 year follow up of employed persons (190 women, 177 men). Interview and questionnaire data on work and leisure conditions were collected in 1969 and 1993. Risk analyses were performed in relation to three outcomes in 1993: depression within the preceding 12 months, impaired psychological wellbeing, and heavy alcohol use.

Results: Thirteen per cent of the women and 11% of the men showed symptoms of depression, 21% and 22% had impaired psychological wellbeing, and 7% and 15% respectively were heavy alcohol users. Dissatisfaction with the quality (women) or quantity (men) of social contacts 24 years earlier was a significant risk factor for depression. Dissatisfaction with the quality of social contacts was also associated with impaired psychological wellbeing (among women), and dissatisfaction with leisure time activities was associated with heavy alcohol use (among men). Frequent overtime work 24 years earlier was associated with heavy alcohol use among women. Cross sectional analyses also showed associations between psychological ill health and some work related factors (mentally demanding work and lack of job pride).

Conclusions: Perceived inadequacies in social contacts, and practical obstacles to social relationships are viewed as risk factors for depression. In this longitudinal study, work related factors, including mental demands and time pressure, do not appear sufficiently associated with psychological ill health.