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16-05-2011 | Psychology | Article

Managing occupational stress could counteract physician depression


Free abstract

MedWire News: Occupational stress management is needed to counter depression in physicians, Japanese researchers suggest.

They found occupational stress was more strongly associated with depression than the number of hours a doctor worked.

The results suggest that occupational stress "cannot be simply measured using the number of working hours alone," says the team from Nara Medical University School of Medicine.

Kimiko Tomioka and colleagues mailed a questionnaire to 1902 graduates of their medical school asking about hours worked the previous week, occupational stress, and social support, and also assessed depression using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale.

Of 795 alumni who responded, 706 answers - from 534 men and 172 women - were deemed suitable for analysis.

The researchers found that physicians with a long working week of more than 70 hours were significantly more likely to have depression than those with a shorter week of less than 54 hours, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.8 after adjusting for basic attributes.

The team also assessed occupational stress by measuring the discord between effort and reward as a ratio, with values of more than one indicating the effort devoted did not correspond with the reward gained.

The odds of depression were not significantly higher for doctors with a shorter working week who were in the top versus bottom third of effort-reward ratio.

However, for doctors who worked a middle-length week of 54 to 70 hours or who worked more than 70 hours per week, the adjusted OR for depression in the top versus bottom third of effort-reward ratio was statistically significant at 8.5 and 9.9, respectively.

When physicians were divided according to working hours and occupational stressors (indicated by the effort-reward ratio), the adjusted ORs for depression tended to be higher in groups with a high effort-reward ratio, whereas no association was found for working hours.

Reporting in the journal Occupational Medicine, the researchers conclude that the management of occupational stress "might be an important countermeasure against depression among physicians."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Anita Wilkinson

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