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One Thing That Raises Your Depression Risk by 300%, Says Study

If you can accurately describe your workplace as “toxic,” here’s yet another reason to leave.

Everyone's had a job they hated, but if your work environment rises to the level of "toxic"—which, according to the career site The Ladders, is usually characterized as being led by one or more toxic leaders, having poor or non-existent procedures that aren't executed, and having abysmal communication patterns—a new study published in the British Medical Journal has provided at least one reason for you to get a new job, assuming you're not looking for one already.

Conducted by researchers at the University of South Australia over the course of an entire year, the study found that full-time workers who work in a toxic work environment—employed by "organizations that fail to prioritize their employees' mental health"—have a "threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with depression."

Yes, that's threefold. As in, 300%.

"Evidence shows that companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression," says the study's lead author, Amy Zadow, Ph.D., a psychologist and research associate at the University of South Australia, in the official release.

According the study, a workplace usually becomes toxic when the toxicity starts flowing from the top, with "poor management practices, priorities, and values." That will manifest itself in high job demands and low resources, which combine to result in more bullying and a higher rate of burnout.

This study isn't the first to note how bad corporate culture can spread like a virus. "While direct interactions with 'bad bosses' can be traumatic for employees, the problem often goes further than a single individual," writes Manuela Priesemuth, Ph.D., a professor at the Villanova University School of Business, in the Harvard Business Review. "Indeed, some of my own research has shown that abusive behavior, especially when displayed by leaders, can spread throughout the organization, creating entire climates of abuse."

She explains that, "because employees look to and learn from managers, they come to understand that this type of interpersonal mistreatment is acceptable behavior in the company. In essence, employees start to think that 'this is how it's done around here,' and this belief manifests itself in a toxic environment that tolerates abusive acts."

What's more, Priesemuth notes that research has shown that "employees who experience abuse from a supervisor are also more inclined to 'pass on' this type of treatment in a ripple effect." If this sounds eerily like your own workplace, take note. And if you're experiencing any of the symptoms associated with depression, consider seeking out professional help. And for more on the connection between your job and your health, don't miss What Happens to Your Body When You Have a Busy Job, Says Science.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more
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