A new report has come out that sheds further light on the psychology of employment. Previous studies have shown that unemployed people experience more depression, stress, and anxiety than people who have jobs. This is hardly surprising: the financial burdens of unemployment provoke constant worry about feeding family members and making mortgage payments. But this new research, from the Centre for Mental Health Research at The Australian National University, suggests that a poor quality job is worse, mental health wise, than no job at all. Poor quality jobs include those that put high levels of strain on employees, are at risk of being cut, or have no prospect for future advancement.
When comparing based on employment situation, people in poor quality jobs had the highest rates of depression, and this makes sense. When we feel we’ve accomplished something worthwhile, as in a satisfying job, we feel proud of ourselves. When unemployed, we feel we’re just not being given the chance to accomplish things. But a bad job takes away the “what if” and replaces it with a roadblock to that sense of accomplishment.
Certainly this study bears on discussions of employment issues, but it’s also relevant to the world of psychology: to therapists, counselors, psychotherapists, and anyone who has been or is a client. PhysOrg.com summed up the story as such: “Satisfying job leads to better mental health.” While prolonged lack of professional satisfaction can certainly lead to depression, it’s not depression alone that’s worth talking about. Dissatisfaction in itself, and the doubt, self-esteem issues, and life questions that come out of it, is tremendously viable as a topic of self-reflection and of therapy. So many of the things that we think about and struggle with do not have (or at least do not need) official labels: spiritual quandaries, unresolved family issues, personal vocation, personal fears. Do we need to diagnose these as stress or depression or something else with an official title? No. But does it help to talk these things through with a counselor? Absolutely.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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