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Can a Stress Questionnaire Identify People at Risk for Depression?


The Brief Job Stress Questionnaire (BJSQ) is a tool used for assessing stress in the workplace. The questionnaire consists of 57 questions relating to emotional stress, physical stress, social conditions, and quality of life at home and at work. It has been successfully used for years and is a reliable tool for identifying work-related stress. In fact, many companies and organizations have found that use of the BJSQ allows them to recognize what factors contribute to stress and, therefore, provides them an opportunity to take steps to eliminate stressful aspects. The end result is less stress for employees and better employee health, attendance, and ultimate productivity. Because stress and symptoms of stress are often seen as precursors to depression, it would be beneficial if this same test could indicate which individuals may be at risk for depression as well.

To launch an investigation into whether or not the BJSQ can identify people at risk for depression, Keiko Wada of the Department of Public Health at Dokkyo Medical University School of Medicine in Japan led a study involving over 1,800 employees of a software company. The participants ranged in age from 20 to 70, and their medical records and sick leave history were assessed a year and half after they took the BJSQ. Of all the participants, only 14 went on to develop depression. When Wada looked at the BJSQ scores of those 14, it was discovered they responded positively to the 29 questions related to stress response of anxiety, fatigue, depression, and irritation.

Of the 29 questions, 18 were related to emotional stress and 11 to physical stress. Even though the physical stress scores did not predict depression, when combined with the emotional stress responses, they clearly showed a higher risk for depression. Wada added, “Therefore, the stress response of the BJSQ, including physical response, is considered to be a reliable and valid tool for assessing the onset of depression.” Wada believes that the results of this study provide evidence that the BJSQ can potentially reveal risk of not only stress, but other mental health conditions as well. Employers could use this information to get a more accurate picture of the mental health environment within their organizations and, if necessary, implement programs proven to improve emotional well-being and reduce stress.

Wada, K., Sairenchi, T., Haruyama, Y., Taneichi, H., Ishikawa, Y., et al. (2013). Relationship between the onset of depression and stress response measured by the brief job stress questionnaire among Japanese employees: A Cohort Study. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56319. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056319

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  • Purple Queen May 7th, 2013 at 9:54 PM #1

    Asking questions to recognize if there is risk of depression is a good thing.in fact it should be encouraged and adopted at more places.but I have one concern.

    will the employees answer honestly to the questions knowing fully well that employers may take a look at their answers?what if they are afraid of the employers sacking them because they believe them to be less productive or prone to depression?I think that needs to be addressed.maybe an independent agency could come in and conduct these surveys and then implement enhancement programs, all while keep the depression prone employees’ identities a secret from the employers.

  • kendall May 8th, 2013 at 3:51 AM #2

    Don’t you think that boiling down whether you are at risk for depression to a questionnaire is a little too simplistic?

  • jessie May 8th, 2013 at 11:47 PM #3

    a questionnaire is only as reliable as the answers given by the participants.nobody wants to be portrayed as a depressed or stressed out individual,definitely not me.so there could be errors in what is inferred.

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