Meaningful work and mental health: job satisfaction as a moderator

J Ment Health. 2018 Feb;27(1):38-44. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2016.1244718. Epub 2016 Nov 12.


Background: Depression, anxiety and stress are common problems for modern workers. Although having meaningful work, or work that is significant, facilitates personal growth, and contributes to the greater good, has been linked to better mental health, people's work might also need to be satisfying or enjoyable to improve outcomes.

Aims: The purpose of the present study was to examine meaningful work's relation to mental health (i.e. depression, anxiety and stress) and investigate job satisfaction as a moderator of this relation.

Methods: The study hypotheses were tested with a large, diverse sample recruited from an online source.

Results: Partially supporting hypotheses, when controlling for job satisfaction, meaningful work negatively correlated with depression but did not have a significant relation with anxiety and stress. Similarly, job satisfaction negatively predicted depression and stress. Furthermore, the relations between meaningful work and both anxiety and stress were moderated by job satisfaction. Specifically, only people perceiving their work as meaningful and satisfying reported less anxiety and stress.

Conclusions: Although continued research is needed, employers and employees may have to target both the meaningfulness and job satisfaction to address the issues of stress and anxiety among working adults.

Keywords: Job satisfaction; anxiety; depression; meaningful work; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult