Psychosocial Work Conditions and Mental Health

Published on 04 Nov 2020

Silhouette of a woman stretch her arms above her head at her desk in front of a window

A new study by the Institute for Work and Health suggests that psychosocial work conditions – greater job control, social support and job security – are linked with a greater likelihood of workers having flourishing mental health.

Previous studies have looked at the link between psychosocial work factors and poor mental health among workers, as indicated by the presence of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

However, little is known about the work factors that support positive mental health among workers.

Positive mental health includes emotional well-being (e.g. positive moods, life satisfaction), psychological well-being (e.g. personal growth, purpose in life) and social well-being (e.g. social contribution, social belonging).

Not having a mental illness like depression or anxiety is not the same as having good mental health; the two are related, and both can be influenced by psychosocial work factors.

Mark Oostergo, General Manager – Principal Psychologist at Communicorp stated:

“It is important to remember that Mental Health sits on a continuum as opposed to being distinctly separate concepts. Keyes’ model which interacts with wellbeing is a great visual mode and helps explain how individuals with a diagnosed mental illness can thrive and flourish.”

Graphic showing Keyes' Model of Mental Health

Higher levels of job control, social support and job security are associated not only with a decreased likelihood of mental illness among workers, but also with an increased likelihood of flourishing mental health.

The researchers found that psychosocial work conditions were associated with poor mental health and positive mental well-being.

All else being equal, a higher level of job control, social support and job security increased the odds of a worker being free of mental health disorders by eight to 15 per cent.

They also increased the odds of a worker reporting positive mental well-being by 10 to 14 per cent.

Psychological work demands were not significantly linked to either poor or positive mental health. These findings were similar for both men and women, once personal factors were taken into account.

Taken together, higher levels of job control, social support and job security were more strongly linked with positive mental well-being than they were with being free of mental health disorders.

Given that workplace interventions should aim to both prevent mental disorders and improve mental well-being, focusing on the psychosocial work environment may provide an opportunity to do both at the same time - something Mark advises workplaces are approaching Communicorp for support on more and more.

“New research suggests Mental ill-health costs the Australian economy $70 billion per year with 39 billion in lost productivity and lower economic participation. The report estimates it costs Australian businesses $17 billion alone each year in absenteeism and presenteeism” Mark highlights.

"It makes great business sense on multiple levels for workplaces to tackle this very issue, with a 2.2 fold on investment."

Source: Institute for Work & Health