It's rarely a good idea to take things at face value and a good case in point is the old ‘most depressing careers' chestnut. You don't need to look hard to find these stats, any search engine will do the job. But it's a public interest thing, partly to check whether everything you've suspected about your job is true, and partly to find out who might be worse off than you, and I'm sure there are other motives besides.
I was drawn to one such survey. Actually it was reported in 2007 from an exercise conducted between 2004-06. Government researchers tracked the incidence of depression within 21 major job categories. Anyway, the upshot of the exercise was to say that people who look after the elderly and severely disabled have the highest rates of depression. Nearly 11 percent of personal care workers reported a period of depression lasting two or more weeks.
In the subsequent hierarchy of figures we learn that cooks, bartenders, waiters and waitresses had the second highest rates, care workers in the health sector and social workers came in third. Incidentally, the lowest rates of depression were reported from the job category that includes engineers, architects and surveyors.
So what are we supposed to make of such reports? Are they suggesting it is the job that causes the depression? Maybe people prone to depression are drawn to certain types of jobs? Making sweeping generalizations really isn't useful. It may be tempting to point out that some of the hardest work with the lowest pay tops the depression list. Depending on which survey you check, you will also find that people involved with writing and the arts rank fairly high in the depression stakes. Is this due to long lonely hours immersed in work and away from human contact, is it the soul searching and self-examination required?
Every job is different and comes with its own rewards and low points. Social work, for example, pops up in the depressing jobs surveys. It's a demanding role, often stressful, sometimes intimidating, frustrating, and more besides. Yet, despite the down sides it is also viewed as tremendously rewarding and fulfilling. The same can be said of the teaching profession. Certainly one of the general tipping points between a job that is enjoyable or at least tolerable is the degree of support the person feels they have whilst doing it. If a job comes with high stress and high responsibility but is poorly recognized and badly supported, the implications for those involved are particularly severe.
There's maybe also a case for turning the tables on some of these results. It's true that 11 percent of workers in a particular sector of reporting depression is disturbing, then again does it suggest the other 89 percent are doing just fine? We don't really know. We don't know whether some people are more reluctant to answers certain types of questions than others. It's also been pointed out that the incidence of depression is higher in women and that many of the roles in the high depression areas are traditionally carried out by women.
Despite such gloomy statistics the fact remains that full-time work actually seems to have a protective function against depression. People out of work have a far higher risk of becoming depressed. If you know your job is getting you down it's time to sit up, take notice and try to make some changes either within work itself or, where possible, to consider alternatives.
Published On: August 02, 2011