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The quality of work affects mental health but especially in women

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The quality of work affects mental health but especially in women

Work that stress, especially for women forced to run between the office, the school of the children and household chores. A fact that we already knew but which is confirmed by a new study carried out in the United Kingdom by a team of Italian and British researchers. The research, by the professors of Political Economy Michele Belloni of the University of Turin, Elena Meschi of the Milano Bicocca University and of Ludovico Carrino, a researcher at King’s College London and the University of Trieste, highlighted the close correlation between quality of work and mental health. The study, published in the journal Labour Economicsanalyzed a sample of 26,000 British workers who carried out the same professional activity between 2010 and 2015.

While carrying out the same activity, conditions have changed over time due to technological progress and phases of economic growth and decline. And this had a direct effect on the mental health of the workers. What affects the balance of employees are: the flexibility of organization of working hours and the degree of autonomy that people have in applying and developing skills.

“The study tells us that some positions are generally less flexible, such as those of sales, hospitality and social care workers, but they can experience the same autonomy as office workers. If so, direct the consequence would be a 26% reduction in the risk of clinical depression, “he explains Ludovico Carrinoresearcher of King’s College of London and of the University of Trieste.

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Work stress

What is striking is the fact that in Europe, about one fifth of workers report experiencing stressful working conditions and work-related stress ranks second among work-related health problems, with an estimated annual cost of € 20,000 million. The data emerge from the report “Europen risk observatory report No.9. OSH in figures: stress at work – facts and figures”, published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. “The risk of developing stress or anxiety is linked to working conditions – he explains Claudio Mencacci, emeritus director of Neuroscience Mental Health Asst FBF-Sacco of Milan and co-president of SINPF (Society of Neuropsychopharmacology) – Among these are the high demands and the scarce decision-making autonomy, the poor evaluation of skills, the absence of social support, the imbalance between work effort and pay and perceived injustice in relation to impartiality. We also talk about the respect with which employees are treated by superiors, the uniformity and transparency of the procedures for the distribution of resources and benefits. Workers are very keen on mental health in the company: almost half complain because they have insomnia or anxiety disorders linked to professional problems or environmental causes “.

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Home and office, too much to do

In the UK, the Mental Health Foundation has estimated that mental health problems cost the UK economy, largely due to lower worker productivity, at least £ 118 billion a year, 5% of the UK’s GDP. The consequences, as shown by the research, are different based on the sex of the worker. It is women who pay the highest price as their mental health is more sensitive than men’s to variations in the quality of work. Improvements in the quality of work lead to large reductions in depression and anxiety for women.


The woman has a double burden

“Generally a woman who works outside the home has double the workload compared to her partner – adds Mencacci – She has to take care of the children, of the whole family, often of elderly parents. It is true that from a biological and they are more sensitive to depression, anxiety and insomnia, but the environmental factor plays a central role. They are more disadvantaged at work: they have less space, lower salaries, fewer career opportunities and are more prone to layoffs. a constant state of alertness and stress “.

Women’s depression

Considerations that also emerge from the data available for Italy, from a study by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, based on the Passi surveillance system (2017-2022): at least 6% of Italians under 70 would have depressive symptoms, and this pathology affects women two to three times more than men. “Women – adds Mencacci – must do too many things. There is little help from school and if they do not have young grandparents or the possibility of paying private help, they are always in an emergency. They have little free time and, compared to their companions and husbands. , they work an average of three hours a day more. Today there is more equality and men are more available at home, but there is still something to do “.

Lo smartworking

A situation that shows no signs of improving with smartworking, even if not having to stamp the daily time card has nevertheless brought many benefits. Among the many, there is also that of being able to work at home if the child is sick. “Even if it has given relief for a greater presence and some accompaniment, for many women smartworking is a nightmare. They also cook for lunch and their comfort zone has been reduced, the space that made them a little more free”.

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With the epidemic, depressive disorders have increased for men and women, a problem that should also be taken into consideration in the world of work. “Between the pre-Covid period and now, depressive disorders have grown by 28% and anxiety disorders by 26%. We need to take cover and many companies need to pay attention to the well-being of employees. We need initiatives in this direction, to create a less stressful environment and more welcoming. Work burnout can lead not only to psychological problems, but also to immune and metabolic problems, and to worsen cardiovascular health. When we talk about stress, we address a central issue of health “.

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