Early Psychological Distress Affects Middle-Aged Workers

April 7, 2008

People who experience psychological distress in childhood and early adulthood may be more likely to experience adverse working conditions during middle age, according to the results of a study published online April 3 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

MONDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- People who experience psychological distress in childhood and early adulthood may be more likely to experience adverse working conditions during middle age, according to the results of a study published online April 3 in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Stephen Stansfeld, Ph.D., of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, U.K., and colleagues studied 8,243 subjects from the 1958 British Birth Cohort study, which measured internalizing and externalizing behaviors at ages 7, 11 and 16, and malaise at ages 23 and 33. The researchers conducted a follow-up assessment when the subjects reached age 45.

The investigators found that subjects who displayed internalizing behaviors in childhood and psychological distress during early adulthood were more likely to experience adverse working conditions in middle age. They also found that certain work stressors were associated with psychiatric diagnoses in middle age, including high job demands (relative risk 1.75 for women and 4.99 for men), low decision latitude (RR, 1.46), high job strain (OR, 1.88), low work social support (RR, 1.97) and high job insecurity (OR, 1.86). But they found that psychological distress in childhood and early adulthood did not explain the association between work stressors and diagnoses of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

"Work stressors are an important source of preventable psychiatric diagnoses in midlife," the authors conclude. "Psychological distress may influence selection into less advantaged occupations with poorer working conditions that may increase the risk of future depressive and anxiety disorders."

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