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Working conditions predict incidence of long-term spells of sick leave due to depression: results from the Belstress I prospective study
  1. N Clumeck1,
  2. C Kempenaers1,
  3. I Godin2,
  4. M Dramaix2,
  5. M Kornitzer2,
  6. P Linkowski1,
  7. F Kittel2
  1. 1
    Laboratoire de recherche psychiatrique, Hopital Erasme, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2
    Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  1. Dr N Clumeck, Department of Psychiatry, Erasmus Hospital, Route de Lennik, 808, B – 1070 Brussels, Belgium; nicolasclumeck{at}


Background: During the last few years, a high incidence of sick leave due to depression has been reported, resulting in important economic and social impacts. Only a limited number of studies investigating the influence of psychosocial working conditions on sick leave have been prospective and have utilised a valid methodology, while none have studied sick leave due to depression. In this study, the impact of adverse psychosocial working conditions is analysed on the risk for long-term sick leave due to depression.

Methods: This study resulted from the large-scale Belstress I study on the relationship between perceived job stress and health problems. Subjects were Belgian employees selected from 11 large companies (n = 9396). Using a longitudinal design, the association between the three Karasek stress dimensions (job control, psychological demand, and social support) was explored, separately and combined according to the demand–control and demand–control–support models and the incidence of long-term sick leave for depression as diagnosed by the family physician.

Results: After adjusting for age, occupational categories, living situation, and baseline depression score, ‘passive jobs’ (OR 2.67; 95% CI 1.15 to 6.19) and ‘high strain’ jobs (OR 3.23; 95% CI 1.40 to 7.43) predicted sick leave due to depression at follow-up in men. Job control predicted sick leave due to depression in both men (OR 2.43; 95% CI 1.27 to 4.66) and women (OR 2.21; 95% CI 1.05 to 4.68).

Conclusions: This study provides evidence that the psychosocial working environment influences long-term sick leave due to depression. Efforts to improve skill discretion and decision authority at work could help prevent depression.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Ethics approval: Faculty of Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles.