High job demands combined with low levels of social support at work put employees, especially women, at increased risk of sick leave due to mental disorders, new research has found.
“Interventions to reduce sick leave due to mental disorders that focus on improving the psychosocial work environment, especially reducing high psychosocial job demands, may prove effective,” said one of the researchers Lisa Mater from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
The researchers used data from a Swedish national study to examine how rates of sick leave for mental health reasons are affected by psychosocial factors at work.
After a five-year follow-up of nearly 12,000 workers, the rate of sick leave due to mental disorders was about eight percent.
Three-fourths of workers with mental health sick leave were women, showed the findings published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Workers with multiple unhealthy behaviour also had higher rates of mental health sick leave. While smoking was a significant risk factor, high physical activity level was a protective factor, the researchers found.
However, the researchers pointed out that efforts aimed at improving health behaviour only — without also addressing the work environment — may be less likely to reduce mental health sick leave.