Could better jobs improve mental health? A prospective study of change in work conditions and mental health in mid-aged adults

Lyndall Strazdins*, Rennie M. D'Souza, Mark Clements, Dorothy H. Broom, Bryan Rodgers, Helen L. Berry

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: To investigate the extent improvement or deterioration in employee job security, control or workload is associated with a change in mental health. Design Self-report panel data (2000, 2004) on mental health (symptoms of depression and generalised anxiety) and job demands, control and insecurity. Changes in exposures and outcomes were calculated by subtracting wave 1 from wave 2 scores. Changes in mental health were regressed onto changes in work conditions, adjusting for confounders. Sensitivity analyses assessed reverse causation, floor and ceiling effects. Setting Two adjoining cities in south-east Australia. Participants: 1975 employees aged 40-48 years, 50% (n=995) male. Results: Improvements and deterioration in each work condition were associated with corresponding improvements or deterioration in mental health. The association between changes in job insecurity and symptoms of depression was B=0.386 (95% CI 0.245 to 0.527) and with anxiety symptoms was B=0.434 (95% CI 0.267 to 0.601). Similarly, changes in job control were associated with changes in depressive (B=-0.548; 95% CI -0.791 to -0.304) and anxiety symptoms (B=-0.608; 95% CI -0.896 to- 0.319) as were changes in job demands (B depression=0.386; 95% CI 0.245 to 0.527; B anxiety=0.434; 95% CI 0.267 to 0.601). Excluding people with severe symptoms at baseline did not alter the findings; however, path analyses indicated that depression may precede a worsening of work conditions. Conclusion: Among mid-aged employees, deteriorating work conditions may amplify population health burdens, especially anxiety. Furthermore, better quality jobs, combining an array of positive conditions, could alleviate major population health burdens.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)529-534
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


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