Toxic workplaces increase risk of depression by 300%, research finds

Poor management practices and lack of engagement with unions are key risk factors for clinical depression among workers.

25 Jun 2021| News

Photo by Nik Shuliahin

New research from the University of South Australia has found that people whose employers do not prioritise their workers’ mental health have a 300% increased risk of suffering from clinical depression.

Factors leading to poor mental health included working long hours, high levels of burnout, workplace bullying and poor management practices, priorities and values.

“Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at much great risk of depression,” Dr Amy Zadow, lead author of the study, said.

The study also found that male workers were at a particularly high risk of depression in such unsupportive and stressful work environments.

Earlier this month, another study co-authored by Professor Maureen Dollard found that engagement with trade unions is an important factor in protecting workers’ mental health.

“Lack of consultation with employees and unions over workplace health and safety issues, and little support for stress prevention, is linked to low PSC [psychosocial safety climate] in companies,” Professor Dollard said.

“We also found that bullying in a work unit can not only negatively affect the victim, but also the perpetrator and team members who witness that behaviour … Sometimes stress is a trigger for bullying … But above all, bullying can be predicted from a company’s commitment to mental health, so it can be prevented.”

“The practical implications of this research are far reaching. High levels of worker burnout are extremely costly to organisations and it’s clear that top-level organisational change is needed to address the issue,” she added.