Our jobs have a profound influence on our mental health. A new study shows the extent to which certain industries give rise to clinical depression.
For the study, Cincinnati researchers Lawson Wulsin and colleagues analyzed care records from Highmark Ltd., a Blue Cross insurance provider for folks living primarily in western Pennsylvania. The data included the occupations and medical claims for well over 200,000 adults from 2001-2005 (so not the newest data we've seen); depression was defined as two or more claims using disease-specific cost codes, though the unemployed, disabled, and retired were not included. In all there were 55 industries considered, all with at least 200 employees.
Looking at the chart above, the items in blue represent those industries in which depression is reported the least, while the ones in red report the most. So, people working in passenger transit, real estate, and social services are among the most affected by clinical depression, while those working in amusement/recreational services, oil and gas extraction (who knew?), and miscellaneous repair services are among the least affected.
According to the researchers, "Rates for clinical depression in 55 industries ranged from 6.9 to 16.2%, (population rate = 10.45%). Industries with the highest rates tended to be those which, on the national level, require frequent or difficult interactions with the public or clients, and have high levels of stress and low levels of physical activity." [Emphasis added.]
Discover's Neuroskeptic offers some insight:
Which makes intuitive sense if you go with the idea that those are actually more depressing jobs, i.e. that they cause depression, rather than (a weaker claim) just being correlated with it or (weaker still) being correlated with people reporting it to their doctors.
However, is that true the world over or is it just a Westsylvania thing? It's interesting to contrast this paper to one I blogged about in 2012. That study showed that, in the UK, blue collar occupations were amongst those with the highest rates of suicide, over the period of 2001-2005. Coal mining occupied the #1 spot in the British suicide rankings but in Western Pennsylvania, remember, coal miners had amongst the lowest rates of treated depression.
The researchers say that a national survey needs to be done, and "to determine whether these differences are due in part to specific work stress exposures and physical inactivity at work."
Read the entire study: Prevalence rates for depression by industry: a claims database analysis.