Mental health depends on more than workplace factors: Study

Employers must distinguish between workplace conditions, individual factors

To limit mental health problems in the workplace, employers need to understand the distinctions between workplace-related and individual factors.

That was one conclusion of a comprehensive study that took an in-depth examination of the factors behind mental health problems in the workplace.

The SALVEO study was conducted by researchers at the Université de Montréal, with collaboration from researchers at Concordia University in Montreal and Université Laval in Quebec City.

Researchers spent two years surveying more than 2,100 workers at 63 different companies. They examined 30 different factors, including work schedules, workloads, management policies, supervision styles, married and family life, alcohol consumption and self-esteem. The factors were all things that have been identified as triggers or inhibitors in psychological distress, depression or burnout.

Results from the study were discussed in a new Standard Life publication entitled Improving Workplace Mental Health : Considering Individual and Organizational Factors in a Comprehensive, Integrated Approach to Prevention.

The key finding in the study was that individual factors play a role in depression and mental health problems, and employers must distinguish the individual factors from the workplace ones.

“Psychological distress, depression and burnout are in part related to workplace conditions. But it is now clear that individual factors also play a role — to varying degrees — when one or another of these mental health problems appears,” said Pierre Durand of the Université de Montréal's School of Industrial Relations, and one of the researchers who led the SALVEO Study.

“We discovered that certain factors may have a direct impact on the incidence of depression, for example, but these same factors may have no impact on the incidence of burnout,” said Alain Marchand, a Université de Montréal researcher who co-led the study. “This is why precise diagnoses are so important. They enable companies to deal more effectively with problems that are specific to their organizations in order to optimize the health and wellness programs they put in place to improve their employees' mental health.”

“These results are quite valuable in terms of targeting health and wellness programs in the workplace,” said Virginie Gosselin, senior consultant of health and wellness at Standard Life Canada. “By taking a more in-depth look at the mental health problems which are most prevalent in any given workplace, we can introduce programs that specifically target the factors or triggers directly related to psychological distress, for example, and improve the impact of these programs on health.”

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