Highly Educated Workers May Be At Greater Risk For Poor Mental Health
educated workers seem to be at greater risk for poor mental health than
the general U.S. population, according to the results of a new study.
studies have examined workplace settings and mental health status, this
is the first to focus on a workforce that is predominately highly
educated, said Cheryl Koopman, Ph.D., lead author of the project, which
was supported by a grant from the Center for Substance Prevention.
that highly educated workers reported poor mental health, when compared
to national norms, came as a surprise to the research team, noted
Koopman., who is on staff at Stanford University.
“We intended merely to identify characteristics of the employees who had worse mental health,” the team said.
found that study participants with advanced education received low
scores on a mental health index, compared with the rest of the nation.
educated workers constitute a large and growing sector of the U.S.
workforce,” said Koopman. “It is vital to have a good
understanding of the mental health status of this population.”
A prior study
by independent researchers demonstrated that highly educated workers
experienced greater stress when faced with potential layoffs than their
less-educated counterparts, according to the study team.
Data from 460
people who responded to a survey mailed to approximately 8,500 randomly
selected employees at a Northern California worksite was used in the
new study; 51 percent of the participants had either a master’s
or doctoral degree.
researchers sought information about the respondents’ perceived
satisfaction with home and work life; whether they were taking
antidepressant medications or had a current drinking problem; how they
coped with problems in their lives; whether they had recently
experienced stressful events; and how frequently they visited
the lowest scores in overall mental health were more likely to be
young; reported higher levels of work or home stress; engaged in
harmful drinking; used antidepressants; or had poor coping skills for
their sources of stress, the study determined.
older employees benefit from having a sense of confidence that they can
face ongoing life stressors that are often similar to others with which
they have successfully coped previously, whereas younger persons are
less confident given their relative lack of experience,” the
study team reported.
noticed a “surprising” gender difference in their findings:
women with advanced degrees scored higher on overall mental health than
men with similar degrees. This finding stands in contrast to data
showing that women are more likely to suffer from mental health
problems, such as depression, the researchers said.
of the factors associated with mental health are modifiable and could
be addressed by worksite treatment and prevention programs,”