Stressors at Work May Lead to Depression and Death

Many people are working from home due to the global health crisis. Medical frontliners are doing their best to fight the coronavirus and treating those who are ill, but apart from COVID-19, the health of many are impacted by their work conditions. 

Stressors at Work May Lead to Depression and Death
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Mental health and mortality affected by job

A study was done by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business where the researchers found that the mental health and mortality of a person is greatly affected by the amount of autonomy with his current job, the workload and job demands, and the person's cognitive ability to deal with the job demands. 

The paper's lead author and assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School, Erik Gonzalez-Mule said that the mental health of a person deteriorates when an individual's ability to deal with the job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job, which could also increase the likelihood of death. 

He said that they studied the job control, which is the amount of autonomy the employees have at work, and the subjects' cognitive ability, which shows the person's ability to learn and solve problems, to see how these factors affect mental and physical health, and ultimately, death. 

Stressors at Work May Lead to Depression and Death
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Work stressors cause depression and death

They found that work stressors such as time pressure and workload tend to cause depression and death to workers who have little to control with their jobs or for those people who have lower cognitive ability. 

Assistant professor of management at Northern Illinois University and co-author of the study, Bethany Cockburn and Gonzalez-Mule found that when job demands are paired with more control of work responsibilities, the result is better physical health and lower chances of death. 

They believe that both cognitive ability and job control act as resources to help people cope with stresses at work. Gonzalez-Mule said that people can set their schedules with job control and they could prioritize work in ways that help them achieve their goals. On the other hand, smarter people could adapt better to the demands of a stressful job and know how to deal with stress. 

The researchers gathered data from 3,148 subjects residing in Wisconsin who participated in the nationally representative, longitudinal Midlife in the US survey. Two hundred eleven participants died in the 20-year study. 

Gonzalez-Mule suggests that managers should give employees more control over demanding jobs or reduce their demands. They could let employees set their own goals or let them decide how they would complete their work. It would also be helpful to reduce the number of working hours to help improve the employees' health. 

Adding to that, he also said that organizations should hire people with high cognitive skills to do demanding jobs. This way, not only will the company benefit from the higher performance from more intelligent employees but also provide a healthier workforce. 

Gonzalez-Mule also said that the coronavirus pandemic affects mental health so it is especially important to exacerbate the problems; which include managing or decreasing demands from the employees, being aware of the cognitive abilities of the employees when handling job demands and to provide autonomy to employees which are even more important before the pandemic happened. 

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