Need for Workplace Support and Low Resilience Affect Employee Distress

Employees who feel the need for workplace support during treatment for chronic diseases and those with low resilience are more likely to develop psychological distress, reports a study in the May Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 

Led by Hisashi Eguchi, MD, PhD, of University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan, Kitakyushu, the researchers performed a prospective online cohort study in 11,920 working adults. In an initial survey, about 19% of respondents said they needed "consideration and support" from their employer in order to keep working during treatment for chronic illnesses, such as depression or cancer.

Approximately 11% of respondents said they needed but did not receive support, while 8% needed and did receive needed support. Forty-five percent of workers had low scores for resilience: a personality trait that may affect the risk of psychological distress.

In a one-year follow-up survey, 3.5% of respondents were classified as having serious psychological distress. After adjustment for other factors, risk of distress was highest for employees who needed but did not receive workplace support and who had low resilience scores: about ten times higher than for high-resilience workers who did not need support. For low-resilience workers who needed and did receive workplace support, risk of psychological distress was about seven times higher.

Risks of distress were intermediate (four to five times higher) for low-resilience workers who didn't need support and for high-resilience workers who needed but didn't receive support; and lowest (two times higher) for low-resilience workers who did not need support. "Workplace support had a stronger impact on psychological distress in low-resilience employees," the researchers write.

The study is the first to examine the combined effects of need for workplace support and personal resilience on the risk of psychological distress among employees with health impairment. For workers who feel they need support, training programs to improve coping skills may promote adaptation to a stressful working environment and help to reduce the negative effects of low resilience.

Dr. Eguchi and coauthors conclude: "This study emphasizes the need for occupational health professionals and employers to prioritize interventions that leverage existing resilience while providing adequate support, enhancing employee well-being."
Dr. Eguchi may be contacted for interviews at eguchi@med.uoeh-u.ac.jp