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Reciprocity and Depressive Symptoms in Belgian Workers: A Cross-Sectional Multilevel Analysis

De Clercq, Bart MSc; Clays, Els PhD; Janssens, Heidi MD; De Bacquer, Dirk PhD; Casini, Annalisa PhD; Kittel, France PhD; Braeckman, Lutgart MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: July 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 7 - p 824–831
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31828dc8cd
Original Articles

Objective: This study examines the multidimensional association between reciprocity at work and depressive symptoms.

Methods: Data from the Belgian BELSTRESS survey (32 companies; N = 24,402) were analyzed. Multilevel statistical procedures were used to account for company-level associations while controlling for individual-level associations.

Results: Different dimensions of individual reciprocity were negatively associated with depressive symptoms. On the company level, only vertical emotional reciprocity was negatively associated (β = −4.660; SE = 1.117) independently from individual reciprocity (β = −0.557; SE = 0.042). Complex interactions were found such that workplace reciprocity (1) may not uniformly benefit individuals and (2) related differently to depressive symptoms, depending on occupational group.

Conclusions: This study extends the existing literature with evidence on the multidimensional, contextual, and cross-level interaction associations of reciprocity as a key aspect of social capital on depressive symptoms.

From the Department of Public Health (Mr De Clercq and Drs Clays, Janssens, De Bacquer, and Braeckman), Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium; and School of Public Health (Drs Casini and Kittel), Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.

Address correspondence to: Bart De Clercq, MSc, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Academical Hospital, Block A-2, De Pintelaan, 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium (

The BELSTRESS study was funded by the Belgian Federal Public Service Employment, Labor and Social Dialogue and the European Social Fund.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine