Objective: The aim of this prospective study was to gain insight into a possible causal relationship between mental health and characteristics of the work situation.
Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Maastricht Cohort Study, this study examines whether deterioration in mental health (prolonged fatigue, need for recovery, and psychological distress) results in a subsequent change in working time arrangements (assessed by means of logistic regression analysis) or occupational mobility (assessed by means of Cox regression analysis).
Results: Compared to employees not experiencing a deterioration in mental health, employees who became a prolonged fatigue case were more likely to reduce their working hours (OR 2.49; 95% CI 1.42-4.35) and leave a shift work job (OR 3.44; 95% CI 1.42-8.38). Employees who became a need for recovery case were more likely to reduce their working hours (OR 2.83; 95% CI 1.53-5.26) or change jobs within the company (RR 1.31; 95% CI 1.07-1.61). Employees who became a psychological distress case were more likely to change jobs within the company (RR 1.38; 95% CI 1.16-1.65) or to change jobs from one employer to another (RR 1.45; 95% CI 1.03-2.03).
Conclusion: The results of this study provide evidence for a possible causal relationship between deterioration in mental health and subsequent change in working time arrangements or occupational mobility. These results suggest that workers adapt to the onset of a mental health problem by reducing their working hours, by leaving a shift work job, by changing jobs within the company, or by changing jobs from one employer to another.