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Are there bidirectional relationships between psychosocial work characteristics and depressive symptoms? A fixed effects analysis of Swedish national panel survey data
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3642-6391
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute.
2019 (English)In: Occupational and Environmental Medicine, ISSN 1351-0711, E-ISSN 1470-7926, Vol. 76, no 7, p. 455-461Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objectives Psychosocial work characteristics have been prospectively associated with depressive symptoms. However, methodological limitations have raised questions regarding causality. It is also unclear to what extent depressive symptoms affect the experience of the psychosocial work environment. We examined contemporaneous (measured simultaneously) and lagged bidirectional relationships between psychosocial work characteristics and depressive symptoms, simultaneously controlling for time-stable individual characteristics.

Methods We included 3947 subjects in the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH), with self-reported job demands, control, social support, work efforts, rewards, procedural justice and depressive symptoms in four waves 2010–2016. We applied dynamic panel models with fixed effects, using structural equation modelling, adjusting for all time-stable individual characteristics such as personality and pre-employment factors.

Results Higher levels of job demands, job demands in relation to control, work efforts and efforts in relation to rewards were contemporaneously associated with more depressive symptoms (standardised β: 0.18–0.25, p<0.001), while higher levels of workplace social support, rewards at work and procedural justice were associated with less depressive symptoms (β: −0.18, p<0.001, β: –0.16, p<0.001 and β: −0.09, p<0.01, respectively). In contrast, only work efforts predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms 2 years later (β:0.05, p<0.05). No other lagged associations were foundin any direction.

Conclusions After controlling for all time-invariant confounding, our results suggest that psychosocial work characteristics predominantly affect depressive symptoms immediately or with only a short time lag. Furthermore, we found no evidence of reverse causation. This indicates short-term causal associations, although the temporal precedence of psychosocial work characteristics remains uncertain.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 76, no 7, p. 455-461
Keywords [en]
depression, effort-reward imbalance model, organizational justice, longitudinal studies, job-demand-control-support model
National Category
Occupational Health and Environmental Health Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Research subject
Public Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-168217DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105450ISI: 000471896300004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-168217DiVA, id: diva2:1307102
Funder
AFA Insurance, 140323Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2009-1758Available from: 2019-04-25 Created: 2019-04-25 Last updated: 2019-07-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Rhythm of the job stress blues: Psychosocial working conditions and depression in working life and across retirement
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rhythm of the job stress blues: Psychosocial working conditions and depression in working life and across retirement
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A work environment characterized by poor psychosocial working conditions may lead to stress and mental health problems such as depression, a common and burdensome public health problem with significant consequences for individuals and for society at large. A number of psychosocial working characteristics have been found to be associated with increased depressive symptoms or clinical depression. This thesis aims to further examine how certain psychosocial working conditions predict depressive symptoms over time, in working life and across retirement. This was done by using several repeated measures from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH) in 2006–2018.

In study I, we investigated how long-term patterns of exposure to job demands and job control were associated with major depressive symptoms. Those with high strain (high demands, low control) and active (high demands, high control) jobs were more likely to have subsequent major depressive symptoms compared to those with low strain jobs (low demands, high control). However, after adjusting for baseline depressive symptoms and various demographic factors, the associations did not remain statistically significant.

In study II, we assessed how job demands, job control and workplace social support were related to long-term development of depressive symptoms. A perception of high job demands and low social support predicted higher or increasing depressive symptom trajectories. In addition, negative changes in job demands, job control and social support were associated with increased symptoms, indicating that the onset of poor working conditions could negatively impact depressive symptoms.

In study III, we investigated simultaneous and lagged bidirectional associations between job demands, job control, balance between demands and control, social support, procedural justice, effort, reward, balance between efforts and rewards, and depressive symptoms, while controlling for individual time-stable characteristics. There were associations between all work stressors and depressive symptoms when measured simultaneously, except for job control. However, only efforts, were prospectively associated with depressive symptoms measured later.

In study IV, we examined how the same psychosocial working characteristics as in study III were associated with the development of depressive symptoms across retirement. Generally, depressive symptoms appeared to decrease across retirement. Job demands, job strain, social support, rewards, effort-reward imbalance and procedural justice, but to a lesser extent job control and efforts, were associated with a more negative and positive course of depressive symptoms across retirement. Especially, depressive symptoms decreased in relation to retirement for a small group with previously high exposure to work stress.

In conclusion, this thesis indicates that particularly perceptions of high job demands, low workplace social support and high work effort predict subsequent higher levels of depressive symptoms, and/or influence the course of symptoms both in working life and past retirement. In addition, changes in these types of conditions seemed to influence the course of depressive symptoms. Especially, the relief from previous exposure to work stress at retirement seemed to have a clear positive impact on depressive symptoms. These results contribute to strengthen the evidence of causality between these types of work stressors and depressive symptoms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Public Health Sciences, Stockholm University, 2019. p. 85
Series
Stockholm Studies in Public Health Sciences, ISSN 2003-0061 ; 2
Keywords
job stress, psychosocial working conditions, job demand-control-support model, effort-reward imbalance model, organizational justice, depressive symptoms, longitudinal studies, trajectory analysis, latent class analysis, fixed-effects regression
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Research subject
Public Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-168220 (URN)978-91-7797-652-3 (ISBN)978-91-7797-653-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-06-14, rum 207, Stressforskningsinstitutet, Frescati Hagväg 16 A, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-05-22 Created: 2019-04-29 Last updated: 2019-05-09Bibliographically approved

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