Associations between psychosocial work environment factors and first-time and recurrent treatment for depression: a prospective cohort study of 24,226 employees

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Aims Adverse factors in the psychosocial work environment are associated with the onset of depression among those without a personal history of depression. However, the evidence is sparse regarding whether adverse work factors can also play a role in depression recurrence. This study aimed to prospectively examine whether factors in the psychosocial work environment are associated with first-time and recurrent treatment for depression. Methods The study included 24,226 participants from the Danish Well-being in Hospital Employees study. We measured ten individual psychosocial work factors and three theoretical constructs (effort-reward imbalance, job strain and workplace social capital). We ascertained treatment for depression through registrations of hospital contacts for depression (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems version 10 [ICD-10]: F32 and F33) and redeemed prescriptions of antidepressant medication (Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical [ATC]: N06A) in Danish national registries. We estimated the associations between work factors and treatment for depression for up to 2 years after baseline among those without (first-time treatment) and with (recurrent treatment) a personal history of treatment for depression before baseline. We excluded participants registered with treatment within 6 months before baseline. In supplementary analyses, we extended this washout period to up to 2 years. We applied logistic regression analyses with adjustment for confounding. Results Among 21,156 (87%) participants without a history of treatment for depression, 350 (1.7%) had first-time treatment during follow-up. Among the 3070 (13%) participants with treatment history, 353 (11%) had recurrent treatment during follow-up. Those with a history of depression generally reported a more adverse work environment than those without such a history. Baseline exposure to bullying (odds ratio [OR] = 1.72, 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 1.30-2.32), and to some extent also low influence on work schedule (OR = 1.27, 95% CI: 0.97-1.66) and job strain (OR = 1.24, 95% CI: 0.97-1.57), was associated with first-time treatment for depression during follow-up. Baseline exposure to bullying (OR = 1.40, 95% CI: 1.04-1.88), lack of collaboration (OR = 1.31, 95% CI: 1.03-1.67) and low job control (OR = 1.27, 95% CI: 1.00-1.62) were associated with recurrent treatment for depression during follow-up. However, most work factors were not associated with treatment for depression. Using a 2-year washout period resulted in similar or stronger associations. Conclusions Depression constitutes a substantial morbidity burden in the working-age population. Specific adverse working conditions were associated with first-time and recurrent treatment for depression and improving these may contribute to reducing the onset and recurrence of depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13
JournalEpidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Cambridge University Press.

    Research areas

  • depression, epidemiology, occupational psychiatry, prospective study

ID: 387424141