Background: Anxiety and depression are prevalent among employees and are associated with functional disability and work impairment. To date, little is known about the incidence and possible risk factors for developing anxiety and depression in the working population. Study aims were to (a) determine the incidence of subclinical anxiety and depression in a general working population and (b) identify the psychosocial work characteristics associated with the onset of subclinical anxiety and depression.
Methods: This prospective study is based on 3,707 employees participating in the Maastricht Cohort Study on Fatigue at Work. Psychosocial work characteristics were measured in May 2000; anxiety and depression were measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale in April 2002.
Results: The cumulative 23-month incidence for subclinical anxiety and depression was 4.6 and 3.3%, respectively. High psychological job demands increased the risk for both subsequent anxiety and depression. Moreover, low social support was predictive for the onset of anxiety, whereas job insecurity increased the risk for the onset of depression. These prospective associations were independent of potential confounding variables and the other psychosocial work characteristics.
Conclusions: Adverse psychosocial work characteristics are significant predictors for the onset of subclinical anxiety and depression in the general working population. These findings encourage intervention studies testing whether modifying the psychosocial work environment reduces both anxiety and depressive symptoms among employees.