An employee’s feelings of depression and anxiety are strongly correlated with how safe they feel at work, according to new research from the National Safety Council (NSC).
Forty percent of people who reported feeling very unsafe at work reported symptoms of depression on all or most days, while only 1% of people who felt safe at work reported the same. Twenty-five percent of people who reported feeling very unsafe at work also reported having symptoms of anxiety on all or most days, compared to less than 2% of people who felt very safe at work.
Those who felt unsafe at work “were nearly three times more likely to report also experiencing depressive symptoms within the past two weeks compared to those who felt safe at work.” Those same employees who felt unsafe at work were more than twice as likely to also report feeling symptoms of anxiety compared to those who felt safe on the job.
And individuals with high levels of concern for their safety at work were more likely to report feeling depressed or anxious frequently enough to meet one of the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of mental illness, researchers found.
‘Feeling unsafe at work is hurting people’
“Feeling unsafe at work is hurting people, and more must be done to combat this in a holistic way,” said John Dony, vice president of thought leadership at the National Safety Council. “Employers everywhere must accept responsibility for their impact on workers on and off the clock by implementing safety policies and procedures that protect the whole person, including both physically and mentally.”
An employer’s whole organization is required to address mental health in the workplace, including leadership, human resources, supervisors and managers, safety professionals and the employees themselves.
Results from 1,001 current workers
These results were based off the NSC Workforce Trends Indicator Survey, which was conducted in March 2022 with 1,001 current workers ages 20 to 65 in the U.S.
This survey had questions on work environment and industry, feelings of safety at work in general and regarding COVID-19, along with feelings of depression and anxiety.
Results are self-reported and “should be interpreted to suggest an association of the concepts.”
NSC is conducting additional research to validate and expand on these findings.