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Working Conditions and Depressive Symptoms: A Prospective Study of US Adults

Burgard, Sarah A. PhD; Elliott, Michael R. PhD; Zivin, Kara PhD; House, James S. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 9 - p 1007–1014
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182a299af
Original Articles

Objective: Prior longitudinal studies of negative working conditions and depression generally have used a single exposure indicator, such as job strain, and have required consistent availability of the measure across waves and selection of only those working at all measurement points.

Methods: Up to four waves of the Americans' Changing Lives study (1986 to 2001/2) and item-response theory (IRT) models were used to generate wave-specific measures of negative working conditions. Random-intercept linear mixed models assessed the association between the score and depressive symptoms.

Results: Adjusting for covariates, negative working conditions were associated with significantly greater depressive symptoms.

Conclusions: A summary score of negative working conditions allowed the use of all available working conditions measures and predicted depressive symptoms in a nationally representative sample of US workers observed for up to 15 years. Linear mixed models also allowed retention of intermittent workers.

From the Department of Sociology (Dr Burgard), Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, Department of Biostatistics (Dr Elliott), Department of Psychiatry (Dr Zivin), and Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, Ford School of Public Policy, US (Dr House), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Address correspondence to: Sarah A. Burgard, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, 500 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (

NICHD funding (1 R03 HD057268-01A2) supported the time of SAB and MRE to conduct analysis and write manuscript; NIA funding (PO1 AG0551, RO1 AG018418) supported original collection of the Americans' Changing Lives data, although publicly available data were used for these analyses. NICHD and NIA were not involved in the study design, collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or in the writing of this paper or decision to submit it for publication.

Authors Burgard, Elliott, Zivin, and House have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

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