Excessive workload as stressful as joblessness?

Employees with excessive job demands can be as distressed as someone who is jobless, says a new comparative study. 

The study, led by Peter Butterworth, associate professor at the the Australian National University (ANC) College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, is the first to use representative data from England to compare the mental health of those who are unemployed with those in jobs of differing psychosocial quality.

Poor psychosocial job quality is measured by factors such as high job demands, low job control, poor job security and low job  esteem, the journal Psychological Medicine reported.

Butterworth said the study's findings support the hypothesis that the mental health benefits of work are restricted to good quality jobs, and that the poorest quality work is comparable to unemployment as a risk factor for poor mental health, according to a ANC statement.

"Our analysis clearly established that there was no difference in the rates of common mental disorders, such as anxiety and  depression, between those who were unemployed and those who were in the poorest quality jobs," Butterworth said.

"Both of these groups of individuals were more likely to experience a common mental disorder than those who were in high  quality work. Importantly, the results from this analysis of Britain data confirm  previous findings from analysis of Australian data," said  Butterworth.

"They add to a growing body of research highlighting the need to address the psychosocial aspects of the work  environment as part of national government plans to reduce mental illness in the  community," added Butterworth.

The study draws on data from the 2007 English Adult  Psychiatric Morbidity Survey.

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