Careers and Depression

Health Magazine recently came out with its list of the ten careers most likely to cause depression. Some of the careers on the list were unsurprising, particularly those in the chronically underfunded “helper” professions such as social workers and nursing home workers. Overall the professions shared a few key elements that I’ve seen in most dysfunctional workplaces such as the lack of a professional support network and insufficient value placed on individual contributions.

The list, in order, is as follows:

  1. Nursing home/child-care workers
  2. Food service staff
  3. Social workers
  4. Health-care workers
  5. Artists, entertainers, and writers
  6. Teachers
  7. Administrative support staff
  8. Maintenance and grounds workers
  9. Financial advisors and accountants
  10. Salespeople

Overall the professions on this list fall into a few major categories:

  1. Helping Professions (Nursing home/child-care workers, social workers, teachers, health-care workers)
    • The combination of working with limited resources and empathetically taking on the burdens of the people they seek to help can be emotionally draining.
    • In addition these professions tend to be poorly compensated (with the exception of doctors) and the people served are often unable to show the workers that they are valued.
  2. Low Level Service Positions (Food service workers, administrative support staff, maintenance and grounds staff)
    • Workers in lower level service positions have very little autonomy working largely to help somebody else fulfill their dreams.
    • In addition, staffing schedules mean that they are frequently working with and for new people so there are few opportunities to make the meaningful connections with colleagues that help people get through their days.
  3. Creative professions (Artists, entertainers, writers, and to a certain extent, salespeople)
    • These jobs are often anti-social by nature. Many creative types work better alone and the nature of the creative job market is such that most work is by contract leading to very little interaction or relationship-building with co-workers.
    • While some salespeople, in retail for example, belong under the category of low level service workers, many of the challenges of sales are echoed in the creative professions. Salespeople often work alone, are paid by commission and constantly need to outdo themselves in order to secure the next paycheck.

Also unsurprisingly, the group with the highest rates of depression was the unemployed at 13%. This may be a bit of a chicken and the egg situation however as unemployment can certainly be a cause of depression and at the same time, depression can be a cause of unemployment. In either case, given the high rates of unemployment in the USA at the moment, this is a correlation that should not be ignored.

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