Common mental disorders in the workforce: Recent findings from descriptive and social epidemiology

Kristy Sanderson, Gavin Andrews

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286 Citations (Scopus)


To review the recent descriptive and social epidemiology of common mental disorders in the workplace, including prevalence, participation, work disability, and impact of quality of work, as well as to discuss the implications for identifying targets for clinical and preventive interventions.

We conducted a structured review of epidemiologic studies in community settings (that is, in the general population or in workplaces). Evidence was restricted to the peer-reviewed, published, English-language literature up to the end of June 2005. We further restricted evidence to studies that used recent classification systems; then, if evidence was insufficient, we reviewed studies that used standardized psychiatric screening scales. To distinguish this article from recent reviews of health and work quality, we focused on new areas of investigation and new evidence for established areas of investigation: underemployment, organizational justice, job control and demand, effort–reward imbalance, and atypical (nonpermanent) employment.

Depression and simple phobia were found to be the most prevalent disorders in the working population. The limited data on rates of participation suggested higher participation among people with depression, simple phobia, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. Depression and anxiety were more consistently associated with “presenteeism” (that is, lost productivity while at work) than with absenteeism, whether this was measured by cutback days or by direct questionnaires. Seven longitudinal studies, with an average sample size of 6264, showed a strong association between aspects of low job quality and incident depression and anxiety. There was some evidence that atypical work was associated with poorer mental health, although the findings for fixed-term work were mixed.

Mental health risk reduction in the workplace is an important complement to clinical interventions for reducing the current and future burden of depression and anxiety in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2006

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