Serious psychological distress (SPD) is a concept that doctors and researchers use to gauge the…
Everyday Stress at Work Can Add Up to Depression Later
The daily stress that accompanies a job can lead to frustration, exhaustion and general dissatisfaction. The challenges at work, from an unrealistic workload to difficulties in interacting with supervisors and coworkers, can also impact one’s home life. Individuals may feel incapable of positive interactions with a spouse or children after a day filled with stress at work.
While workers may feel that their immediate wellbeing and satisfaction with life is being affected by their job stress, a new study led by a UC Irvine psychologist finds that an individual’s long-term mental health may also suffer due to stressors at work.
The research, which appears in a recent issue of the journal Psychological Science, provides evidence that daily irritations at work may lead to depression and anxiety later in life.
However, it is not the actual stress, say the researchers, but instead the way that an individual responds to those stresses that determines how their mental health is impacted.
The researchers used information gathered from two national surveys. They used the data to examine the relationship between the daily negative emotions and levels of mental health exhibited 10 years later.
After analyzing the data of about 700 individuals, the researchers discovered that elevated levels of negative emotions acted as a predictor for later mental health issues. Emotions like hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness and restlessness were reported 10 years after the initial surveys. Those who reported negative emotions were also more likely to have received a diagnosis of depression or anxiety.
The researchers also found that respondents who reported a negative reaction to daily stress, such as frustrations at work or at home, were at an increased risk for psychological distress and mental health disorders 10 years after the surveys.
“How we manage daily emotions matters to our overall mental health,” said study author Susan Charles. “We’re so focused on long-term goals that we don’t see the importance of regulating our emotions. Changing how you respond to stress and how you think about stressful situations is as important as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.”
According to Charles and her colleagues, the findings show that mental health outcomes aren’t affected by just major life events; they also bear the impact of seemingly minor emotional experiences. The study suggests that the chronic nature of negative emotions in response to daily stressors can take a toll on long-term psychological well-being.
“It’s important not to let everyday problems ruin your moments,” Charles said. “After all, moments add up to days, and days add up to years. Unfortunately, people don’t see mental health problems as such until they become so severe that they require professional attention.”
The findings draw attention to the need for education, potentially offered through employers, to provide tools for dealing with daily stress. Learning a few ways to combat the negative emotions that stress can produce may lead to better long-term mental health outcomes.