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Job strain and depressive symptoms in men and women: a prospective study of the working population in Sweden


Background Several prospective studies have indicated increased risk of developing depressive symptoms in employees who report psychologically demanding and uncontrollable work (job strain). There are diverging findings regarding gender differences in this relationship. The aim was to analyse whether men and women differ with regard to the prospective relationship between adverse psychosocial work environment and depressive symptoms during a 2-year period.

Method The Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health cohort based on representative recruitment of working men and women in Sweden was used. 2731 men and 3446 women had answered questions regarding work environment and mental health in 2008 and 2010. Psychological demands, decision authority, age and income as well as depressive symptoms in 2008 were used as predictors of depressive symptoms in 2010.

Results Women reported less decision authority at work and their demand level developed more unfavourably than did men’s—resulting in increased job strain gap between men and women from 2008 to 2010. The relationship between demand and decision authority (and job strain) on one hand and depressive symptoms on the other hand was not statistically different in men and women.

Conclusions Overall, women reported higher levels of job strain than men. In Sweden, job strain was as strongly related to depressive symptoms among men as among women.

  • Depression
  • Psychosocial Factors
  • Stress
  • Workplace
  • Gender

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