Study Reveals Effects of Workplace Wellness on Mental Health

Could what you do for a living increase or decrease whether you’re “likely to be depressed?” And if so, could workplace wellness programs have any effect on employee mental health?

According to recent reports, the answer to both questions may be yes.

Benefits Pro recently reported that “depression [is] more common in some jobs, lifestyles.” The piece is based on a “study from MentalHelp.net, “Depression Among Demographics and Professions,” which examined data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to uncover the prevalence of depression across age groups, work forces and other demographics.”

It continues: “Industries most affected by depression covered a broad spectrum, although they had some factors in common — including ‘often thankless jobs in which workers experience some of the best (and worst) of society on a daily basis.'”

Among the roles cited: Public and private transportation; real estate; social services; manufacturing or production; personal services; legal services; environmental administration and waste services; organization and association administration; security and commodity brokers; and print and publishing.

And while depression has many causes — and treatment and prevention are specialized and dependent on the individual — a new UCLA study published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine explores the “Effects of an employee exercise programme on mental health.”

The authors write that “prior research indicates that workplace wellness programmes (WWPs) are generally associated with lowered healthcare costs and improved employee health. Despite the importance of mental well-being in workplace productivity and attendance, few WWP studies have focused on improvements in psychological well-being.”

So they examined “a 3-month exercise and nutrition WWP, on seven domains of health: physical and mental health, stress, energy level, social satisfaction, self-efficacy and quality of life.”

The results “for the 281 participants reveal significant improvements across all seven domains.”

The conclusion is meaningful for workplace wellness program design and its relation to mental health: “This study is unique in revealing the effects of a WWP on multiple domains of psychological well-being. Given rising healthcare costs associated with mental health, targeting mental health through WWP may be an effective strategy for reducing indirect healthcare costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism.”