Does your job put you at risk of having a mental illness? Which industries pose the most risks?


Does your work depress you? You may be right, according to recent studies on rates of depression in different industries. Discover which professions are vulnerable – and why – then act to alleviate workplace stress.


A recent study assessed more than 214,413 people from 55 industries in order to identify which professions have the highest rates of depression. While the study was conducted in the USA, there are some obvious parallels for workers in Australia.

The highest rates of depression were found in employees who, as part of their duties, frequently experience difficult interactions with clients or the public and have high levels of stress as well as low levels of physical activity.

According to this formula, is it possible that people who are at risk are:

  • Frontline customer service staff
  • Call centre operators.

Customer service staff and call centre operators generally sit at their desk and deal with complaints for most of their day. They don?t have enough breaks and rarely get up and leave the desk for just a few minutes.

In addition, it has been found that the highest rates of occupational anxiety, stress and neurotic disorders are in these sectors:

  • Transportation
  • Warehousing
  • Utilities
  • Health care
  • Social assistance services.

It has been found that health care and social assistance professionals regularly experience at least 1 bad mental health day for every 30 days at work.

Furthermore, the highest work stress and conflict has been found in:

  • Legal services
  • Local and interurban transport
  • Securities and commodities.

The ability to mange and resolve conflict is an essential part of the job description for professionals in the industries mentioned. You are less likely to go to a lawyer, debt collector, Ombudsman, Fair Trading officer, a psychologist, or a policeman when everything is perfect in your life. Most likely you are seeking help because you are in distress, you feel under pressure, you are facing criminal charges, going through a divorce, or unhappy with the services provided to you. However, even the most skilled professionals can reach their limits, especially if they are working overtime, lack resources and support or are experiencing external pressures in their personal life or professional engagements.

It is not always possible to change your job or career and to replace it with a calm and peaceful occupation like looking after a garden of bonsai trees. Of course you will not give up your professional calling or your passion just because it comes with many challenges. But you need to recognise that your profession can take its toll. Neglecting your mental and physical health might lead to negative consequences, not only for your professional life but your personal life as well.

If you find that you are in an industry where you deal with conflict frequently, where there is a lack of support but a lot of expectations, or where you encounter many stressors, pay attention. Overall, if you find that you are distancing yourself from others, getting tired more easily and feeling low, you need to act:

  • Recognise when you may just need a few days off work
  • Evaluate your work priorities and workload
  • Ask for help (for instance, talk to your manager and, if needed, seek professional help)
  • Accept help (for instance, delegate and outsource and do take time off to look after yourself)
  • Work on your resilience
  • Review your stress management plan
  • Incorporate mindfulness exercises
  • Remember that you can always talk to you GP about your concerns and your GP can direct you to the right health professional.

The most resilient people can have their limits too. Don’t push to find your limit, review your capacity to deal with stressors on a regular basis. You deserve to be in great physical and mental shape.


References: Wulsin, L., Alterman, T., Bushnell, P. T., Li, J., & Shen, R. (2014). Prevalence rates for depression by industry: a claims database analysis. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 49(11), 1805-1821.

License: Creative Commons Copyright
All rights reserved by R