As much as 14 per cent of new cases of depression and anxiety could be eliminated if employers actively reduced job strain among their workforce, the Black Dog Institute has revealed, which in turn would slash absenteeism.
Releasing the results of a study into high job strain and its effects on mental health, the Institute said its research proved the link between job strain and common mental disorders, including anxiety and depression.
Job strain, it said, is a term used to collectively describe cultural practices such as high work pace and intensity, conflicting demands, work overload and low decision-making ability.
And employers should be taking note, the Institute’s Associate Professor Samuel Harvey said, because of the financial and productivity costs in sick leave.
“Mental illness is the leading cause of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia, equating to $11 billion lost to Australian businesses each year,” he said.
“Our modelling used detailed data collected over 50 years to examine the various ways in which particular work conditions may impact an employee’s mental health.”
The international research effort pored over health data from the UK National Child Development Study, with 6,870 participants.
It found that high job strain directly correlated with increased mental illness, regardless of gender or occupational class.
“These findings serve as a wake-up call for the role workplace initiatives should play in our efforts to curb the rising costs of mental disorders,” said Professor Harvey.
“The results indicate that if we were able to eliminate job strain situations in the workplace, up to 14 percent of cases of common mental illness could be avoided.
“Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce job strain, and finding ways to increase workers’ perceived control of their work is often a good practical first step. This can be achieved through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible.”
The Black Dog Institute’s findings come just days after the federal government allocated $1.2 million in the budget for a new suicide prevention campaign, in additional to multi-million dollar funding for Lifeline and other support services.
Separately, business consultant Angela Henderson criticised the culture among business owners of wearing long work hours as a “badge of honour”, which she claimed from personal experience leads to burnout and mental illness.
Crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone in need on the following numbers:
• Lifeline 13 11 14
• Mensline 1300 789 978
• Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.