Even a Good Job Can Cause Depression

Work, even enjoyable work, can cause extreme stress, which may lead to mood disorders and depression. Some researchers suspect that growing worker stress may be associated with the increasing prevalence of depressive disorders and suicide, but they are still trying to unravel whether it's coincidence or cause and effect.

Work-related stress tends to fall into a few main categories.

Shift Work and Overtime

Shift work disrupts the body's normal sleep/wake cycle. Consistent sleep interruption causes insomnia, excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, headaches, lack of energy, and mood disorders. Lack of sleep can also lead to serious consequences, such as accidents or life-threatening errors. Employees who work overtime are also more likely to report higher anxiety and depression.

If your job requires shift work, you must make sleep a priority. Shoot for 7 to 8 hours daily. Prepare your body with regular pre-sleep routines and try to keep a regular sleep schedule even when you're not working. Enlist your family to create a sleep-friendly environment. If possible, limit your number of consecutive night shifts. Avoid extended hours, long commutes, and frequently rotating shifts.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90 percent of employees work out of their home and the average daily commute is about 47 minutes. People who commute daily by car or public transportation report more stress, exhaustion, missed work days, and poorer health. Experts don't link commuting, per se, to poorer health; they suspect negative health consequences are likely due to the stress, uncertainty, and over-tiredness from the travel.

SafeWorkers.com offers a few tips for minimizing commuting stress

  • Ask your employer about flexible work patterns, such as working from home some of the time or shifting your workday to avoid rush hour.
  • Prepare for work the night before to eliminate last-minute stress.
  • Try to have breakfast with your family.
  • Car pool-you can relax on your non-driving days.


Unfortunately, some employees are exposed to toxic chemicals or organic solvents at work, which can lead to mood disorders, depression, and anxiety. Poor lighting may also contribute to depression, especially in individuals with Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you work in these conditions, try to go outside during your breaks for fresh air and sunlight. Just five minutes in nature can boost your mood.

Regardless of your work situation, take responsibility for caring for yourself properly. Identify-and modify-bad habits and attitudes that may make your stress even worse.


Woo, Jong-Min, MD, PhD, and Postolache, Teodor, T., MD. "The Impact of Work Environment on Mood Disorders and Suicide: Evidence and Implications." International Journal of Disability and Human Development 7(2) (2008): 185-200. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2559945/

Cleveland Clinic. "Shift Work Sleep Disorder." Web.


Occupational Health & Safety. "Study Links Working Overtime to Anxiety, Depression." Web. 17 June 2008. http://ohsonline.com/articles/2008/06/study-links-working-overtime-to-anxiety-depression.aspx

Virtanen, Marianne, Stansfeld, Stephen A., Fuhrer, Rebecca, Ferrie, Jane E., and Kivimäki, Mika. "Overtime Work as a Predictor of Major Depressive Episode: A 5-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Study." PLoS ONE 7(1) (2012): e30719 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0030719

National Sleep Foundation. "Shift Work and Sleep."Web.  http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/shift-work-and-sleep

National Sleep Foundation. "2008 Sleep In America Poll." Web.  http://www.sleepfoundation.org/sites/default/files/2008%20POLL%20SOF.PDF

Carroll, Joseph. "Workers' Average Commute Round-Trip Is 46 Minutes in a Typical Day." Gallup.com. Web. 24 August 2007. http://www.gallup.com/poll/28504/Workers-Average-Commute-RoundTrip-Minutes-Typical-Day.aspx

Durham, Jeff. "Effects of Long Commutes to Work." SafeWorkers.co.uk. Web. 1 October 2010.


Medical News Today. "Commuting To Work Is Bad For Your Health." Web. 31 October 2011.