Good work environments don’t just prevent mental illness, they also promote positive well-being

Within recent years, the focus on mental health has been widely publicised, particularly within the workplace. Studies have mainly leaned towards concentrating on recognising and tackling features in the workplace that are connected with poor mental health such as depression and stress. However, there is a distinct lack of research aimed at distinguishing traits which bring positivity to workers’ wellbeing. 

To fill this knowledge gap, colleagues at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, Canada co-authored an article published within the Annals of Work Exposures and Health titled, Psychosocial work conditions and mental health: examining differences across mental illness and well-being outcomes. This piece of research provides important information on how levels of psychosocial exposures in the work environment are related to both likelihood of mental health problems and levels of positive mental health among a population-based sample of Canadian workers.  

Co-author for this paper, Dr Peter M. Smith, Senior Scientist at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto, Canada, states,

“We have known for some time that low job control over the way work is performed and skills are used, low social support from work colleagues and supervisors, and job insecurity are associated with mental health conditions such as depression and distress. What we know less about is whether or not the opposite—high job control, supportive work environments and job security—are associated not just with the absence of mental health problems, but also with higher levels of mental well-being.”

The results of this study suggest that, while the levers for achieving these objectives may differ, providing workers with greater job control, establishing supportive work environments and creating secure employment will prevent mental illness and improve mental well-being.   

Chief Editor of the Annals of Work Exposures and Health, Dr Noah Seixas, states,

“The science of occupational hygiene has focused almost uniformly on the prevention of work-related disease and disability. However, health is more than the absence of adverse health conditions, it is also the support of a thriving workforce. This paper helps to open this important direction for occupational hygiene and others interested in developing workplaces that support worker well-being.