Table 2

Moderate or high-quality reviews that address how work contributes to the development of common mental health problems

AuthorYearCountryType of reviewType of studies included in reviewNumber of studies included in reviewQuality scoreRisk factors examinedFurther details
Theorell et al212015SwedenSystematic review and meta-analysisProspective or comparable case–control studies596Job demand–control–support model (job strain, job demand, job control, low supervisor support, low coworker support)
Effort–reward imbalance model (effort–reward imbalance)
Organisational justice model (procedural injustice, relational injustice)
Atypical working hours (long working week)
Workplace bullying and conflict (bullying, conflicts with supervisor, conflicts with coworkers)
There was moderate evidence that high job strain, low job control and workplace bullying have a significant impact on the development of depression symptoms. There was limited evidence for high job demands, effort–reward imbalance, low workplace social support, low workplace justice, workplace conflicts, job insecurity and long working hours
The systematic review and meta-analysis included only prospective studies that had passed their quality assessment. The GRADE approach was used to determine the level of evidence for each of the risk factors in predicting depression. The authors did not provide operational definitions for most of the predictor variables
Verkuil et al222015NetherlandsSystematic review and meta-analysisCross-sectional and longitudinal studies636Workplace bullyingThe cross-sectional studies showed a significant positive association between workplace bullying and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Examination of the longitudinal studies showed that workplace bullying was prospectively related to mental health problems.
The systematic review and meta-analysis included both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. The researchers examined the reversed association between mental health problems at baseline and workplace bullying at follow-up. The outcome assessed was the average of the depression, anxiety and stress symptom scores
Schmidt et al232014GermanySystematic review and meta-analysisCase–control, cross-sectional and longitudinal studies327Role stress (role ambiguity and role conflict)There were moderate but significant positive associations between role ambiguity and depression, as well as role conflict and depression
The systematic review and meta-analysis used a comprehensive search strategy, which aimed to capture non-English publications and grey literature. The meta-analyses on role ambiguity and role stress were repeated controlling for the influence of the other risk factor only one longitudinal study. Only one longitudinal study was identified
Nieuwenhuijsen et al242010The NetherlandsSystematic review and meta-analysisProspective cohort studies76Psychosocial risk factors (job demands, job control, social support, career perspective, task variation, emotional demands and procedural justice)Strong evidence was found that high job demands, low job control, low coworker support, low supervisor support, low procedural justice, low relational justice and high effort–reward imbalance predicted the occurrence of stress-related disorders (which included adjustment disorders).
The systematic review and meta-analysis included only cohort and case–control studies with prospective designs. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed, and all were of high quality. All but one study included in the review assessed exposure to psychosocial risk factors using self-report measures
Netterstrom et al252008DenmarkSystematic reviewLongitudinal studies145Psychosocial working conditions (job strain, job demands, low control, effort–reward imbalance)Moderate evidence for an association between psychological demands in the job and development of depression. Social support at work was associated with a decrease in the risk for future depression
The systematic review included only longitudinal studies, with a sample size of >100. The risk factors were assessed using a variety of different measures. There was some evidence of publication bias
Stansfeld and Candy262006UKSystematic review and meta-analysisHigh-quality longitudinal studies116Psychosocial work stressors (decision authority and latitude, job strain, social support, effort-reward imbalance and job insecurity).Summary statistics indicated that low decision authority (OR=1.21 95% CI 1.09 to 1.35), decision latitude (OR=1.23 95% CI −1.09 to 1.39), high psychological demands (OR=1.39, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.69), job strain (OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.06 to 3.10), low occupational social support (OR=1.32, 95% CI 1.21 to 1.44), effort–reward imbalance effect (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.45 to 2.35) and job insecurity (OR=1.33 95% CI 1.06 to 1.67) predict common mental disorders
The systematic review and meta-analysis only included longitudinal studies that had met their quality appraisal. There were <10 studies examining each of the risk factors, but the sample sizes of the included studies were large. There was a high degree of heterogeneity between studies
Virtanen et al272005FinlandSystematic review and meta-analysisCross-sectional, prospective cohort studies, prospective cohort register and retrospective studies275Employment status (fixed term, temporary, substitutes, seasonal projects, probationary period)Higher levels of psychological morbidity among temporary workers compared with permanent employees (OR=1.25, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.38). Morbidity may be higher in temporary jobs with high employment instability. Contextual factors modified the association between temporary employment and psychological morbidity; the morbidity was stronger the lower the unemployment rate
The systematic review and meta-analysis included a mixture of cross-sectional and prospective studies. The authors did not provide operational definitions for the different types of employment status, and they were assessed using a variety of different measures. The study did not examine the possibility of reverse causation