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The relationship between work stress and mental disorders in men and women: findings from a population-based study
  1. J L Wang1,
  2. A Lesage2,
  3. N Schmitz3,
  4. A Drapeau2,4
  1. 1
    Departments of Psychiatry and of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2
    Department of Psychiatry, University of Montreal, Centre de recherche Fernand-Seguin, Hôpital L-H Lafontaine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  3. 3
    Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  4. 4
    Unite de Psychiatrie Sociale, Centre de recherche Fernand-Seguin, Hôpital L-H Lafontaine, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. JianLi Wang, Department of Community Health Sciences, Room 127, Heritage Medical Research Building, 3330 Hospital Dr NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 4N1; jlwang{at}


Objectives: This analysis estimated the gender-specific associations between work stress, major depression, anxiety disorders and any mental disorder, adjusting for the effects of demographic, socioeconomic, psychological and clinical variables.

Methods: Data from the Canadian national mental health survey were used to examine the gender-specific relationships between work stress dimensions and mental disorders in the working population (n  =  24 277). Mental disorders were assessed using a modified version of the World Mental Health—Composite International Diagnostic Interview.

Results: In multivariate analysis, male workers who reported high demand and low control in the workplace were more likely to have had major depression (OR 1.74, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.69) and any depressive or anxiety disorders (OR 1.47, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.04) in the past 12 months. In women, high demand and low control was only associated with having any depressive or anxiety disorder (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.84). Job insecurity was positively associated with major depression in men but not in women. Imbalance between work and family life was the strongest factor associated with having mental disorders, regardless of gender.

Conclusions: Policies improving the work environment may have positive effects on workers’ mental health status. Imbalance between work and family life may be a stronger risk factor than work stress for mental disorders. Longitudinal studies incorporating important workplace health research models are needed to delineate causal relationships between work characteristics and mental disorders.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Funding: JLW is supported by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

  • The research and data analysis were performed using the data from Statistics Canada; however, the opinions and views expressed do not represent those of Statistics Canada.

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