The prevalence of psychological distress in employees and associated occupational risk factors

J Occup Environ Med. 2008 Jul;50(7):746-57. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31817e9171.


Objective: There is limited occupational health industry data pertaining to 1) the prevalence of psychological distress in various employee subtypes and 2) risk factors for employee psychological distress.

Method: The employees of 58 large public and private sector employers were invited to complete the Kessler 6 (K6) as part of the Health and Performance at Work Questionnaire. A K6 score of > or =13 was chosen to indicate high psychological distress.

Results: Data on 60,556 full-time employees indicate that 4.5% of employees have high psychological distress of which only 22% were in current treatment. Occupational risk factors identified include long working hours, sales staff and non-traditional gender roles.

Conclusion: High psychological distress is pervasive across all employee subtypes and remains largely untreated. Risk factors identified will guide the targeting of mental health promotion, prevention and screening programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult