One in six cases of depression among working men and women is caused by job stress, according to a study.
The study also found that more working women than men experience job stress, which is likely to be lower in unskilled occupations.
The findings were based on data collected from a 2003 survey of 1,100 Victorian workers.
Stressful working conditions in this study were defined as a combination of high job demands and low control over how it gets done.
Job stress exposure patterns were then combined with previous research showing that it doubles the risk of depression to estimate the proportion of depression caused by job stress among working people.
By comparison, vastly fewer workers receive workers' compensation for stress-related mental disorders, suggesting that these statistics grossly under-represent the true extent of the problem.
Tony LaMontagne of Melbourne University, who led the study, said women and those in lower-skilled occupations are more likely to experience job stress, and so bear a greater share of job stress-related depression.
“This represents a substantial and inequitably distributed public health problem,” he noted.
“The burden of mental illness in the general population follows a similar demographic pattern, suggesting that job stress is a substantial contributor to mental health inequalities,” he said.
“The evidence shows that improving job control, moderating demands, and providing more support from supervisors and co-workers makes a difference," he said.
“Our hope is that a better understanding of the scale of this problem will lead to more support for employees, particularly for lower-skilled workers and working women.”
The findings of the study have been published in the latest issue of the journal Public Health.