Technology & Science

1M Canadians dissatisfied with how they earn a living: studies

About one in 12 working Canadians, or more than one million people, said they were unhappy on the job in 2002, and depression is a major occupational health issue, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.

About one in 12 working Canadians, or more than one million people, said they were unhappy on the job in 2002, and depression isa major occupational health issue, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.

The study used data from the 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey and the 2002/2003 National Population Health Survey to describe stress levels among people 18 to 75 who were employed, and looked at the links between stress and depression.

"For workers of both sexes, high stress on and off the job was associated with depression. However, the mental health of male workers was more vulnerable to stress arising from the work environment," the report's authors wrote.

Levels of stress and depression differed between industries. For example, job strain among men in processing, manufacturing or utilities was 30 per cent compared with a low of 13 per cent for men working in management.

Employers will need to think about how to deal with the high proportion of men who are not happy in traditionally male-dominated industries, said Eilenna Denisoff, a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Reducing stress, depression on the job

In a second study, just over one million adults, 70 per cent who were employed, reported a "major depressive episode" in the year before they were interviewed.

In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide.

For women, low supervisor support was linked with depression, while low support from co-workers was linked with higher prevalence of the condition for both sexes, the study's authors found.

Enlightened employers are recognizing the costs of chronic job stress and depression in higher absenteeism and lower productivity and are trying to reduce stress for employees, said Judith Berg, a therapist in Vancouver.

In her practice, Berg said common factors among her stressed-out clientsincluded:

  • High demand jobs.
  • Low control at work.
  • Little input in decisions.
  • Little recognition.
  • Lack of training or poor job skills.
  • Mismatch with the culture of the organization.
  • Lack of communication with senior management or within the workplace.

Long commutes and communication technologies that tie people to their jobs also contribute to stress levels, Berg said.

"Everyone as an adult usually knows what to do to de-stress themselves," Berg told CBC Newsworld.

"That could be just having a warm bath, if you've had a bad day. It could be jogging, it could be exercise, it could be listening to music. Knitting, gardening, going for a walk, talking to a friend. It's the chronic stress that employers should be concerned about."

Job strain a factor in depression

About 27 per cent of female workers and 19 per cent of male workers reported high job strain— when the demands of work outweigh the freedom to make decisions or apply skills.

"Men in high-strain jobs were 2.5 times more likely than their counterparts in low-strain jobs to have experienced depression; women were 1.6 times more likely," the report said.

There was also a clear link between perceptions of job stress and job satisfaction. One in four workers who found most days extremely stressful were dissatisfied with their jobs. But among those for whom stress was not really an issue, only one in 15 was dissatisfied.

People who were unhappy at work also tended to take more disability days. The average number of days taken by workers who were dissatisfied was almost three times that for workers who were very satisfied with their jobs.

Income also seemed to make a difference. About 15 per cent of men with annual incomes of less than $20,000 were dissatisfied with their jobs, while only five per cent with incomes of at least $60,000 were dissatisfied.