BACKGROUND: Prospective studies on occupational stress and depression among Korean workers are scarce. This study aimed to investigate the causal relationship between changes in occupational stress and the presence of depression.
METHODS: This study analyzed data from a survey conducted with workers in a large Korean company (2015-2016). Occupational stress was measured using the Korean Occupational Stress Scale, and depression was screened using the WHO-5 Well-being Index. The levels of occupational stress were grouped in quartiles based on subjects' occupational stress scores in 2015, and changes in occupational stress were measured using the score changes between the 2015 and 2016 surveys. Subjects were divided into four groups according to the presence or absence of depression in 2015 and 2016: a non-depressed group whose mental health did not change, a non-depressed group whose mental health deteriorated, a depressed group that continued to be depressed, and a depressed group whose symptoms of depression were alleviated. Logistic regression analysis was used to calculate the odds ratios (ORs) and confidence intervals (CIs) of the subjects' deterioration in mood or alleviation of depression by occupational stress levels and changes.
RESULTS: The OR for developing depressive symptoms was 2.51 (95% CI 1.46-4.33) and 2.73 (95% CI 1.39-5.36) in the third and the fourth quartiles of occupational stress, respectively, compared to the first quartile. When the occupational stress score increased by 1 point, the OR for increasing depressive symptoms was 1.07 (95% CI 1.04-1.10). There was no significant difference in the alleviation of depressive symptoms between the groups by level of occupational stress. However, when the occupational stress score decreased by 1 point, the OR for alleviating depressive symptoms was 1.08 (95% CI 1.05-1.11).
CONCLUSION: The results showed that increased occupational stress increased the presence of depressive symptoms, and that reduced occupational stress suppressed the development of depressive symptoms. More attention should be paid to stress management among workers.
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