Job Stress and Depression

For millions of Americans work stress is an all-too common reality. And it's seemingly getting worse. Technology such as cell phones, emails, and text messaging increasingly causes job stress to spill over into our personal lives. In some cases, this leads to severe illnesses, including depression.

A job or career can contribute to your sense of achievement and self worth, and provide you with a much-needed income or outlet for your creativity. On the other hand, increasing demands from management, bad bosses, or toxic colleagues, can make you feel insecure, anxious, or depressed.

In 2004, one out of four workers took a mental health day. In surveys conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 61 percent of respondents indicated that job stress has a significant impact on their lives; 54 percent were concerned about the effects job stress had on their health.

Factors that Increase Job Stress and the Risk of Depression Include:

  • long hours, including too much overtime
  • lack of control in your job
  • personality conflicts, especially with your boss
  • a high volume of work
  • insufficient qualifications or skill to do the job
  • non-negotiable deadlines
  • a long commute

Symptoms of Depression on the Job

Major depression is associated with symptoms such as persistent sadness or empty feelings, anxiety, fatigue, hopelessness, poor concentration and memory, overeating, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.

Depression due to job stress can also produce other symptoms, according to the Kent Center of Human and Organizational Development, including:

  • inability to complete job tasks and responsibilities
  • inability to concentrate at work
  • unusually slow performance
  • missed deadlines
  • frequent sick days
  • decreased interest or involvement in work
  • loss of interest in interacting with co-workers

How to Lower Job Stress and Your Risk of Depression

Research shows that interventions to reduce job stress may significantly lower the risk of depression. Some stress in your life is inevitable. In some cases, it can even push you to perform better. But, if you start experiencing symptoms of depression, it's time to take action.

  • Communicate. If you're having problems with your boss or a colleague, don't just ignore it. Try to build bridges. Find out what you can do improve the situation and let them know how you feel. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. If dealing with superiors directly doesn't take the edge off the situation, try mediation through a supervisor.

  • Delegate. The APA research indicates that managers and executives experience the highest levels of job stress. It's essential that you learn how to delegate responsibility, rather than micromanaging.

  • Appreciate. If staff morale is low and absenteeism is high, this may increase job stress if you're a manager. Praising staff can improve morale, productivity, and the bottom line.

  • Accept. If you've unable to resolve a situation that is causing job stress, accept it and move on. For instance, if your manager refuses to increase your salary while piling on the work, say "no more." Prepare for any backlash by looking for new a new job.

  • Rethink your role. You've heard it before: a job is what you do, not who you are. If you've bought into the other way of thinking, it's time to rethink - especially if your job is very stressful and you're beginning to sink into a depression.

  • Get counselling. If your company has an Employee Assistance Program, it may cover the cost of counselling for problems such as anxiety, depression, or grief.

  • Take care of your health. Exercise, a healthy diet, and relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai chi can help to reduce the effects of job stress and your risk of depression.