The general category of factors labeled job stress has been associated with a number of negative outcomes, such as health complaints, as well as negative attitudes and behaviors. The exact nature of the particular stressors may vary in different studies, but individuals who are exposed to different stressors generally report lower well-being and symptoms of ill-health and depression.
Depression has been reported as a consequence of job stress in several studies, and there are indications of reverse causation, in that depression has been found to influence perceptions of work stressors, thus actually exacerbating the experience of negative conditions at work. Moreover, levels of depression have been found to be higher among women, and women tend to be more likely to experience depressive episodes. Fewer studies have tested whether the link between job stressors and depression is stronger among women as compared to men. Based on this, the present study investigates the relationship between work stressors and depression, and potential gender differences in this relationship, as well as testing the direction of the relationship, using a longitudinal design. In order to investigate the whether the strengths of the relationships between work stressors and depression vary between women and men by a multiple group comparison using structural equation modeling.
Wave 1 of the data collection was completed during February 2005. Questionnaires were sent out to the home addresses of all employees at an accounting firm with branches all over Sweden, and 250 filled out and returned their questionnaires for a response rate of 86%. Women comprised 50% of the sample, and the mean age was 42 years (SD=10). Wave 2 data will be collected in January 2006.
The preliminary results indicate that work stressors predict depression similarly among women as compared to men, implying that explanatory models for depression hold for both groups, at least when pertaining to work stressors. The results also indicate that work stressors explain a larger proportion of the variance in depression than indicated by previous research. The results indicate that depression may be partly prevented by improving the work situation. When expanded with tests for reverse causality and control for initial values, the study will be able to shed light on gender differences in the development of depressive symptoms over time as well, and have implications for helping individuals cope with depression at work.