Job insecurity, abusive supervision, excessive demands, the encroachment of work on family life and domestic relationship problems top the list of factors that contribute to the development of mental health issues among workers, found a recent study.
Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of workers reported a recent episode of psychological distress and 11 per cent declared to be professionally inefficient at least once a week.
Researchers at the Université de Montréal, Concordia University in Montreal and Université Laval in Quebec City focused on a series of factors that may lead to the development of psychological distress, depression and burnout at work. More than 2,100 employees at 63 companies were interviewed about their personal and professional lives.
The results of this questionnaire were supported by cortisol measurements, a hormone found in saliva and recognized as an indicator of an individual’s stress level. This research methodology is a first in the field of study of mental health factors in the workplace.
The researchers responsible for the study, professors Alain Marchand and Pierre Durand of the Université de Montréal’s School of Industrial Relations, are convinced the impacts of an individual’s personal and work-related problems on his or her mental health cannot be considered separately.
“The strength of this research is that it takes a large number of factors into account. These include work organization, family and employment relationships and certain personality traits, such as self-esteem, as well as other potential risk factors, like chronic illness or alcohol misuse,” said Durand.
The study also provided an opportunity to review approximately 65 corporate practices designed to reduce stress and improve employee health. These practices range from operating a company fitness centre to implementing shorter working hours.
“The good news is that we know it is possible to introduce effective measures to reduce mental health risks,” said Eric Pfeiffer, senior consultant, health and wellness, at Standard Life, which supported the report. “The results of this study will provide our customers with additional motivation to adopt an integrated prevention approach tailored to their specific business needs.”
The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that one in five employees (21.4 per cent of Canada’s working population) suffers from a mental illness that potentially affects his or her productivity at work. Lost productivity related to absenteeism, presenteeism (when a worker is physically present but unproductive) and turnover costs Canadian companies $6.3 billion each year.
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