Being on a low rung of the corporate ladder increases the risk that a woman will develop symptoms of severe depression, according to a new study from Denmark.

Low workplace status doesn’t appear to affect the risk of depression in men, but job security does. Men who reported feeling that their jobs were in danger were twice as likely to become depressed.

Dr. Reiner Rugulies of Copenhagen’s National Institute of Occupational Health says he and his colleagues were surprised by the gender difference in their findings, which they report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Regulies and his research team observed 4,133 men and women on symptoms of depression and workplace factors in 1995, and then again in 2000. The study was prospective, and as such, the scientists were able to use statistical techniques to adjust for other factors that could influence risk of depression, Regulies said, he and his team are relatively certain the findings show a cause-and-effect link.

The team found women who reported having low influence at work (e.g., little power to regulate their work place, information on decisions affecting their workplace, or involvement in planning work) were more than twice as likely to develop severe depressive symptoms over the five-year duration of the study.

Subjects reporting low supervisor support, meaning they responded that they “usually not” or “never” received support and encouragement from their supervisors, also were twice as likely to experience severe depression.

Among men, job insecurity (being worried about becoming unemployed, transferred against their will, laid off, or difficulty finding another job they lost their current position) doubled the risk of depression, but none of the other factors had an effect.

Workload and support of coworkers appeared to play no role in the risk of depression for either men or women.

Rugulies noted that depression is believed to be a result of the interaction between an individual’s personal vulnerabilities and factors of their environment, and thus, their work environment “might be one important part which interacts with other factors.”

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