Here’s a classic Catch-22 conundrum for co-workers to consider. Psychological distress, such as feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, nervousness, and/or restlessness) can be predictors of early stage anxiety and depression. It can also lead to decreased job productivity and absenteeism. But, it may actually be the job that’s creating the mental distress in the first place. Norwegian researchers have identified that perceived role conflicts and emotional demands are the most important and most consistent risk factors for psychological distress. While other psychosocial working conditions have been linked to distress, this study is the first to highlight the importance of these two issues. Håkon A. Johannessen, PhD, and colleagues from the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health, looked at how the work environment affected employees’ levels of psychological distress. Sixteen percent of workers said they were at least slightly bothered by psychological distress over the past month. The study focused on two main risk factors: role conflict, such as being given work tasks without enough resources to complete them and receiving contradictory requests from different people; and emotional demands, defined as “dealing with strong feelings such as sorrow, anger, desperation and frustration” at work. Problematic levels of distress were 53% more likely for workers reporting role conflict and 38% more likely for those facing high emotional demands. Other risk factors were low job control, bullying/harassment, and job insecurity. The researchers conclude that employers should focus on the identified risk factors to improve the psychosocial work environment and thus promote good mental health and productivity among employees. Is your job getting you down? Have you any tips for beating work-related stress? We’d love to hear from you.