Is your job causing your depression? Here’s a way to find out

All of us know what it is like to have work-related stress, to have issues falling asleep because of work, or to have those periods where you just can’t bear the thought of going into the office. Thankfully, generally speaking, these are temporary periods that fade.

But, what if it’s something more?

Allow me to introduce you to what might be the most depression survey you’ve heard of in a while: The Occupational Depression Inventory, a tool designed to help, “quantify the severity of work-attributed depressive symptoms and establish provisional diagnoses of job-ascribed depression.”

Sigh.

A new survey about the ODI claims that it, “showed strong reliability and high factorial validity.” This means that it can reliably determine if someone is showing depressive symptoms as a result of workplace issues. It consists of ten statements, such as, “My work was so stressful that I could not enjoy the things that I usually like doing” and “My experience at work made me feel like a failure.” Survey takers are supposed to rate their agreement with the statements on a scale of 0-3, with 0 meaning never or almost never and 3 meaning nearly every day. A higher score means more of a chance that your work is responsible for causing your depression.

So, what do you do if you score high? Learn to cope?

Gah. I mean, look, the fact that this tool exists, and that there is enough of a demand for it, shows that we might be at a point in society where we need to reexamine our priorities. Obviously I get the need for it, and it makes perfect sense. But, as I’ve said time and time again on this blog, we have to remember that societal facets are often a huge factor in causing depression, and I worry that this is something we have lost sight of. 

I don’t mean this as a knock on the ODI or the people who developed it. It is clear there is a need for such a survey, and perhaps this survey can help people make more positive psychological changes to their lives. But what it doesn’t address is what happen when someone is at a job because they have zero financial choice and no other skills. It doesn’t deal with the fact that our society safety net, job retraining options and educational systems are all woefully inadequate. It doesn’t address the non-stop financial pressure that we all feel in order to provide for our kids, our parents, ourselves, our debt…nada. And this is why so many people stay at dead end jobs, get depressed and then take a survey like the ODI. 

For the millionth time, as a society, we have to make a choice. If we want to reduce depression, for real, we have to reduce the causes of depression, and that is often financial stress and the non-stop fear of what happens if someone loses employment. There is so, so much more to depression than mental health! This is more proof of the truth behind that statement.