Depressed workers rampant in white-collar sector

Employers need to “intensify” their strategies for reducing work-related stress, according to researchers, who have found a third of workers in a white-collar industry could be clinically depressed.

They said their findings mirrored those from a number of international studies on a wide range of industries.

Based on a survey of bank employees in northern Brazil between 2012 and 2013, the University of Sao Paulo researchers found a “significant association” between work-related stressors and depressive symptoms.

They found 32 per cent of the 1046 participating employees presented depressive symptoms and could “potentially be considered clinically depressed”.

“Having a job characterised as high strain, low social support, high effort/low reward and high over-commitment was strongly associated with both major and other depressive symptoms,” the study found.

It also found the link was “independent of age, gender and other job characteristics”.

According to the researchers, bank workers were typically affected by “competitiveness, productive restructuring and down-sizing”, which were associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes such as depression.

They said their study examined two levels of depressive symptoms – major depressive symptoms (MDS) and other forms of depressive symptoms (ODS).

Results showed high strain at work was most significantly associated with MDS, while low social support and over-commitment were associated with both MDS and ODS.

The study also found the high effort/low rewards aspect of the banking sector was associated with ODS.

The researchers said their findings reflected previous international research, including a Chinese study that found about 32 per cent of managers, technicians and workers in a number of industries had depressive symptoms, and a Japanese study that found 39 per cent of workers at a production plant were adversely affected by stress.

The new study found other contributors to work-related stress in the banking sector included the constant need to upskill, and the threat of downsizing.

It found the need to upskill added “additional stress for employees, especially for older workers, who may feel threatened by such pressures as they lack these skills”.

“Bank downsizing is one of the main concerns for workers, and it results, for those who stay, in greater pressure at work, stress and overload among employees,” the researchers said.

“Psychosocial conditions in banking activity involving high strain, low social support at work, high effort with low reward and over-commitment may represent possible risk factors for depressive symptoms in bank employees.

“These findings highlight the need to intensify preventive efforts that might modify this threat among these workers.”