Home / Anxiety & Depression / The one factor causing depression and anxiety in the workplace | Johann Hari

The one factor causing depression and anxiety in the workplace | Johann Hari



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I learned about nine causes of depression and anxiety, for which there’s scientific evidence with different sets of solutions.

But I’ll just give you a very quick example of one.

I noticed that lots of people I know who were depressed and anxious. Their depression and anxiety focuses around their work.

So I started looking at, well, how do people feel about their work? What’s going on here?

Gallup did the most detailed study that’s ever been done on this. What they found is 13 percent of us like our work most of the time. Sixty-three percent of us are what they called “sleepwalking” through out work. We don’t like it. We don’t hate it. We tolerate it. Twenty-four percent of us hate out jobs. If you think about that 87 percent of people in our culture don’t like the thing they’re doing most of the time. They did send their first work email at 7:48 a.m. and clock off at 7:15 p.m. on average. Most of us don’t want to be doing it.

Could this have a relationship to our mental health?

I started looking for the best evidence, and I discovered an amazing Australian social scientist called Michael Marmot who I got to know who discovered, the story of how he discovered it is amazing, but I’ll give you the headline.

He discovered the key factor that makes us depressed and anxious at work:

If you go to work and you feel controlled, you feel you have few or limited choices you are significantly more likely to become depressed or actually even more likely to have a stress-related heart attack.

And this is because of one of the things that connects so many of the causes of depression and anxiety I learned about. Everyone watching this knows that you have natural physical needs, right. You need food. You need water. You need shelter. You need clean air. If I took them away from you, you would be in trouble real fast, right. There’s equally strong evidence that we have natural psychological needs. You’ve got to feel you belong; You’ve got to feel your life has meaning and purpose; You’ve got to feel that people see you and value you; You’ve got to feel you’ve got a future that makes sense.

And if human beings are deprived of those psychological needs they will experience extreme forms of distress.

Our culture is good at lots of things. We’re getting less and less good at meeting people’s deep underlying psychological needs. And this is one of the key factors why depression is rising.

And that opens, just to finish the point about what that opens up, a very different way of thinking about how we solve these problems, right. So if control at work is one of the drivers of this depression and anxiety epidemic so I think well what would be an antidepressant for that, right. What would solve that?

In Baltimore I met a woman called Meredith Keogh as part of an amazing transformation. Meredith used to go to bed every Sunday night just sick with anxiety. She had an office job. It wasn’t the worst office job in the world, she wasn’t being bullied, but she couldn’t bear the thought that this monotony was going to be the next 40 years of her life, most of her life.

And one day Meredith did an experiment with her husband Josh. Josh had worked in bike stores since he was a teenager. Again, it’s insecure, controlled work, as you can imagine. And one day Josh and his friends in the bike store just asked themselves: what does out boss actually do? They liked that boss. He wasn’t a particularly bad guy, but they thought, “Well, we fix all the bikes.” They didn’t like this feeling of having a boss. They decided to do something different.

So Meredith quit her job. Josh and his friends quit their jobs. They set up a bike store that works on a different, older principle. It’s a democratic cooperative, not a corporation. So the way it works is there is no boss. They take the decisions together democratically by voting. They share out the good tasks and the bad tasks. They share the profits.

And one of the things that was so interesting to me going there which is completely in line with Professor Marmot’s findings is how many of them talked about how depressed and anxious they’d been when they worked in a controlled environment and they weren’t depressed and anxious now.

Now it’s important to say: it’s not like they quit their jobs fixing bikes and went to become like Beyoncé’s backup singers, right? They fixed bikes before, they fixed bikes now. But they dealt with the factor that causes depression and anxiety.

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28 comments

  1. Anyone want to be friend? Subscribe to my channel. I talk about my battle with depression as a cinematographer. Ill sub back.

  2. in a coop, the workers can collectively hire a manager to manage the workers, and then the workers regularly review the manager's performance and can suggest modifications to the managers methods or even replace them. 40 hrs a week of like minded determinism and democratic entrepreneurship.

  3. This is basically a form of Marxism, it's demonstrated in Naomi Klein's documentary The take from 2004.

  4. I picked IT support, worst decision of my life… You need to know a fort knox of information and you need to kill yourself to be in the high paying positions. US work culture is pathetic. United We Stand… Until a pay raise is involved. just have no natural drive to learn anything… Knowing I might be wasting time.

  5. im totally cant handle my social anxiety + depression FUCK MY LIFE REALLY HATE IT

  6. Wow. Yeah. Honestly would feel a lot better about going into work if that was the case.

  7. A prescription that will not be filled in a capitalistic society as long as there is a large enough workforce available locally or importable. Capitalists would rather replace their entire workforce overtime rather than be accountable to it. Capitalism is the worlds wealthiest religion. The 1% will keep it that way. It may work for small business, however, large corporations will reject it with prejudice.

  8. Part of this depression comes from the fact that the workplace is being flooded with psychotic women who will press assault charges if you say good morning in a way they do not like.

  9. Work, depression and anxiety are all synonimous in my book.
    I'm just suprised there was even "need" of a study to prove this…

  10. How did this get so many likes? It is so wrong.

    The talker is basically advocating communism. He doesn’t appear to understand or care that “bosses” have to take massive risks to start a company. They make the tough choices and have to pay their workers regardless if the company generates any income or not.

    It's only after the boss made the company function rather well that workers feel like they are unappreciated since they are completely removed from all hardships bosses had to traverse. They feel like they could do as good a job and that they don't need a boss, precisely because they are so ignorant about so many things.

    https://youtu.be/pOLmD_WVY-E

    Democracy is clearly ill suited to run a business. This is obviously true since companies are throwing huge swaths of money to any individual capable enough to take on the necessary responsibilities to run even a single department of a large company. This is also clear when you understand the “Pareto distribution”. People are unequal. Only very very few are extraordinarily good at something, while most are inept. Think of painters, plumbers, football players… Anything and everything, everywhere is like this.

    https://youtu.be/6Q0PCDEJWek

    It is because we do have hierarchies of competence that the West is so vastly rich and is spreading their secret of capitalism to anyone and everyone on the planet willing to listen. This is why the world as a whole is sharing unprecedented growth and abolition of extreme poverty.

    In 1820, 94% of the world's population lived in extreme poverty. In 1990, 34.8%, and in 2015, just 9.6%.
    https://humanprogress.org/article.php?p=770

    What is clearly lacking and the reason many people are depressed or sleep-walking at their job is people’s lack understanding of what is going on, and their own part in this remarkable human achievement. As long as you’re doing your job well, you are directly contributing to unprecedented human flourishing. This is something that is desperately needed to show to people. It’s not that we should revert to catastrophic and deadly leftist ideologies of the XX century, but that we are all collectively digging ourselves out of poverty and into unparalleled wealth and prosperity.

    https://youtu.be/yho3CaEeM50
    https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts
    https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_is_the_world_getting_better_or_worse_a_look_at_the_numbers

    Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

  11. Okay, this is all fine and dandy, now how about coming back to the real world. Reality check, a lot of jobs out there are pretty mundane and menial and basically minimum wage as well. I've never worked in one, but take a slaughterhouse for instance? Carving up cows, pigs & what have you all day long or maybe be on the kill floor and kill 2000 head of cows or pigs each and every day? Just saying there are a lot of awful jobs out there, in my opinion, that need to be performed that this happy feel good video doesn't address.
    Oh, and one last thing, how about losing your crappy job? I'm sure that can also cause anxiety and depression, can't it?

  12. Start your own business then….

  13. I think a large percentage of depression is from a Spiritual deficiency. Namely, not having Jesus in ones life. When i started a saving relationship with Jesus, inner peace developed that was not there before…So, i obviously recommend taking that path…If anybody needs teaching on how to start & maintain a relationship with Jesus…the bible teaching site, teachingfaith com has a very good basic course series titled, 'change of mind'..30+ free streaming videos…

  14. Communism packaged up by any other name ….

  15. Thank you so much for this. It makes so much sense. I just started a new job 2 months ago and although I'm getting paid nearly £20k more I've been feeling sick and after getting several blood tests and a chest xray, the doctors have said there is nothing wrong. My friend suggested that maybe this is anxiety or depression from work because I'm working in a very controlling environment and I'm used to having freedom and being trusted by my employer. This has definitely made me feel better as well as made me rethink the job I'm in.

  16. Chomsky and alike have been going on about this for years. Welcome to Anarchy. More over, Anarcho-syndicalism

  17. "There's equally strong evidence that we have natural psychological needs:

    -You gotta feel you belong
    -You gotta feel your life has meaning and purpose
    -You gotta feel that people see you and value you
    -You gotta feel you got a future that makes sense"

    …..Fuck, I don't have any of those! Except maybe meaning and purpose but even that's a little unclear to me.

  18. That would assume all CEOs don’t ever get depression or anxiety because they ultimately are in control. But certainly when things are out of your control it is a big trigger. Not sure it is just simply the operations side of a business.

  19. One factor causing depression at work is going to work

  20. Does this apply to school?

  21. I feel like this video lost me when he mentioned “social scientist”

  22. I bet divorce is another antidepressant.

  23. Um, of course. Owners are the problem, and bosses are their proxy. You're halfway to reinventing socialism, you just need to also notice that they dominate as a class by controlling all capital.

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