According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 6.7% of Americans experience depression every year.
That’s over 20 million people who regularly feel empty, hopeless, or tired.
It’s a mental health problem, but it’s also an economic one. By one estimate, depression costs US companies more than $US80 billion a year, mainly due to lost productivity.
While depression has many risk factors — from genetics to time of the year to family situation — a person’s work is one of them.
Not all jobs pose the same mental health risks.
A 2014 study found that people who work in public transit, real estate, or social work are the most likely to develop depression. But we should note that it’s hard for studies like this to pin down if it’s that certain jobs make people more depressed or that people already prone to depression are just likelier to end up in those jobs; it could very well be a combination.
Led by University of Cincinnati psychiatry professor Lawson Wulsin, the study drew from three years of insurance claims data for 214,000 people in western Pennsylvania employed across 55 industries.
“Industries with the highest rates tended to be those which … require frequent or difficult interactions with the public or clients, and have high levels of stress and low levels of physical activity,” write Wulsin and his colleagues.
In this population, industry depression rates ranged from 6.9% to 16.2%, with an average of 10.45%.
As we’ve noted before, the study found that the industries with the highest rates of depression are:
1. Local/Intercity Passenger Transit — 16.19%
2. Real Estate — 15.65%
3. Social Services — 14.60%
4. Miscellaneous Manufacturing Industries — 14.25%
5. Personal Services — 14.25%
6. Legal Services — 13.44%
7. Environmental Quality/Housing — 13.42%
8. Membership Organisations — 13.28%
9. Security and Commodity Brokers — 12.60%
10. Printing and Publishing — 12.43%
Of course, these stats are taken from a sample of western Pennsylvania. We can’t assume that trends in that region will generalize to the US, and certainly not to the world. (Coal mining, for example, was associated with the highest risk for suicide in a study of British workers, “but in Western Pennsylvania, coal miners had amongst the lowest rates of treated depression,” Neuroskeptic pointed out in the Discover blog post.)
But that isn’t to say that this study is inconsequential. Rather, there’s more research to be done.
If you think you may be experiencing depression, check the list of symptoms at the National Institute of Mental Health or do an intake visit a counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional.
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