Objective There is a lack of evidence concerning the prospective effect of cumulative exposure to psychosocial job stressors over time on mental ill-health. This study aimed to assess whether cumulative exposure to poor quality jobs places employees at risk of future common mental disorder.
Methods Data were from the Personality and Total Health Through Life project (n=1279, age 40–46 at baseline). Data reported on the cumulative exposure to multiple indicators of poor psychosocial job quality over time (ie, a combination of low control, high demands and high insecurity) and future common mental disorder (ie, depressive and/or anxiety symptom scores above a validated threshold) 12 years later. Data were analysed using logistic regression models and controlled for potential confounders across the lifespan.
Results Cumulative exposure to poor-quality work (particularly more secure work) on multiple occasions elevated the risk of subsequent common mental disorder, independent of social, health, verbal intelligence and personality trait confounders (OR=1.30, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.59).
Conclusions Our findings show that cumulative exposure to poor psychosocial job quality over time independently predicts future common mental disorder—supporting the need for workplace interventions to prevent repeated exposure of poor quality work.
- mental health
- occupational health practice
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Contributors PB designed and oversaw the study. LST performed the statistical analyses and all authors (LST, PB and LSL) interpreted the findings. LST wrote the first draft of the manuscript and was supported by LSL in subsequent revisions. All authors revised the draft and contributed to the final version of manuscript.
Funding The PATH Through Life Study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (973302, 179805, 418139), and the Australian Government Agency — Safe Work Australia. It is currently managed by both the ANU and the University of New South Wales. LST was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship (GNT1156849). PB was supported by ARC Future Fellowship (FT130101444) and a University of Melbourne Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences Research Fellowship.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval The PATH Through Life Project was approved by the Australian National University Human Research Ethics Committee: #M9807; #2002/190; #2006/314 and #2010/542.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The availability of data is subject to relevant ethics and PATH committee approvals.