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Worksite Psychological Stress

manA new study finds that nearly five percent of employees have high levels of psychological distress associated with a high likelihood of a mental disorder.

Led by Michael F. Hilton, Ph.D., of The University of Queensland, Australia, the study was based on a survey of more than 60,500 full-time employees of 58 Australian companies.

Workers anonymously completed the “Kessler 6” questionnaire, which asked how often they felt sad, nervous, hopeless, etc. Scores of 13 or higher (on a 24-point scale) indicated high psychological distress, with a high likelihood of a mental disorder.

Overall, 4.5 percent of the employees had high psychological distress. Another 9.6 percent had moderate psychological distress (score of 8 to 12), indicating a “possible” mental disorder.

Just 22 percent of workers with high psychological distress were currently receiving treatment for a mental health condition. Another 29 percent said they had a mental disorder but had never sought treatment, while 31 percent denied having any problem.

Workers in sales positions were at greatest risk of high psychological distress: 5.6 percent of men and 7.5 percent of women. Workers expected to work long hours (60 or more per week) also had high rates of psychological distress.

Another risk factor was working in “non-traditional gender roles”—for example, women who worked as equipment operators or laborers and for men who worked in clerical or administrative jobs. Marital separation and low education were also linked to high psychological distress.

Corporate occupational health and safety (OH&S) programs are increasingly taking an active approach to prevention, screening, and early treatment of physical health problems in workers. However, companies have been less proactive in identifying and providing treatment for workers with mental health problems.

Despite extensive evidence showing the high rates and costs of mental health disorders in the workplace, many employers have the perception that their employees are somehow “immune” to such problems.

The new study—using methods familiar to OH&S professionals and managers—demonstrates a high rate of psychological distress in the working population. The risk factors identified may help in targeting groups of workers at high risk of psychological distress and mental health problems.

“Employers need to focus health resources on a common, debilitating, largely untreated illness group that substantially reduces employee productivity at work, increases absences from work, and increases employee attrition,” Dr. Hilton and colleagues write.

The study is reported study in the July Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Worksite Psychological Stress

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Worksite Psychological Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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