By Margarita Nahapetyan
People who work in a stressful work environment with a poor team spirit are at an increased risk of developing depression and being prescribed antidepressants, says a new report published this week in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Depression is one of the major factors that affects our society. It is a psychological disorder that changes a person's perception internally, affecting his physical state. In many cases, the disorder requires intervention, but remains under-recognized and under-treated. Depression is hazardous for the productivity of employees and reflects on their performance. High job strain, lack of social support, job insecurity and increased psychological demands are all linked to depressive disorders.
Given the current state of recession and economic crisis, the workplace for many people has become even more stressful with constant fear of losing their jobs and being uncertain about their economic future, the experts said. But even in the best of times, the new study found, atmosphere at work can take a psychological toll on employees. According to Marjo Sinokki, from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Turku, Finland, and the new study's main investigator, it is essential to promote well-being at workplace in every possible way and pay more attention also to team spirit.
For their research, Sinokki and colleagues gathered data on more than 3,000 Finnish workers with the ages between 30 and 64 in 2000 and 2001. All employees were asked about their perceptions of the working environment including team spirit, the quality of communication, and about how they felt about job control or demands. In addition, participants were asked to rate the atmosphere in their workplace according to four descriptive phrases, such as "encouraging and supportive of new ideas," "prejudiced and conservative," "nice and easy" and "quarrelsome and disagreeing." They were also asked about their social lives, about their living arrangements and what kind of access they had to health services. Their levels of depression, anxiety, and alcohol misuse were then analyzed, and information on prescriptions for antidepressants over the subsequent three years was collected from a national register.
The researchers revealed that there was a strong association between poor team spirit at work and depressive disorders. The employees who felt that there was less coordination at work were 61 per cent more likely to have a depressive disorder, compared to those who rated it high. Also, these workers were 50 per cent more likely to be taking anti-depressant drugs during the first few years after being interviewed. It was found that during the three years of follow-up, 9 per cent of the participants had bought antidepressant medications. The authors wrote that "A poor team climate at work is associated with depressive disorders and subsequent anti-depressant use."
The researchers found no indication of a co-relation between atmosphere at workplace and alcohol abuse and anxiety. Findings took into consideration factors such as age, gender, marital status, history of mental health disorders, job demands, and tenure. In spite of the fact that the study was conducted in Finland, the researchers believe that their findings apply to workers all over the world. According do Sinokki, much more attention must be paid to psychological factors at workplace. "I think that team climate is an important factor at work all over the place, and I think the results would be similar in the United States," concluded the expert.