Stressed At Work? New Research Suggests It Isn’t Just Your Job

Author

Chris Gayomali

September 22, 2014

Say you come home at 10 p.m. most nights smelling like a caffeinated zombie. You fall asleep on your couch eating leftovers, and, to your horror, you wake up at 5 a.m. In two hours it’s back to the office, to do the same thing all over again.

You’re on the verge of burning out.

It might not just be your demanding boss or your multi-headed hydra of a to-do list contributing to your mental exhaustion. According to new research, the answer is–like all things–much more tangled and complicated. In a new study published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 1,954 employees were surveyed from dozens of organizations in Quebec in an attempt to determine what factors were contributing to their emotional duress.

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Usually we attribute workplace burnout to easy answers: Your boss sucks. Your deadlines aren’t realistic. Your team is unmotivated as a whole. For this study, researchers accounted for factors like household income, gender, age, whether they had a supportive boss, and whether or not they had children. The researchers discovered that job stress doesn’t actually exist in a vacuum, even if it may feel like it. Your home, your social life (or lack thereof), all play a crucial role in how burnt out you feel at work.

For example, the team found that participants who were living with a partner or who had strong ties to their social network outside of work had fewer mental health problems related to the work place. The same was found to be true for workers with newborn kids.

In other words: It isn’t just one thing contributing to your breakdown; it’s a messy confluence of factors that can’t be easily tackled. “In the end, we need to consider broadening approaches in occupational mental health to avoid coming to erroneous conclusions about the relationship between work and mental health,” write researchers in their conclusion.

“This is a call to action,” co-author Steve Harvey, a professor at Concordia, said in a statement. “Researchers need to expand their perspective so that they get a full picture of the complexity of factors that determine individuals’ mental health.”

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