Is employment good or bad for your mental health?

Is employment good or bad for your mental health?



There is a growing awareness of the significant influence that work can have on a person’s mental health and sense of well-being.  Workplaces have an important role in promoting and maintaining the mental health and well-being of employees. Employment provides regular activity, daily routine and structure which  can reduce stress and increase productivity. Working provides a social context for making connections and contact with people outside of family. It can create a sense of community, provide purpose and contribute to a person’s identity.  Becoming unemployed increases the incidence and prevalence of depression. On the other hand, re-employment has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of promoting the mental health of those who have become unemployed.

Job stress is the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when job requirements are not in line with  the capabilities, resources or needs of the employee. Job stress can lead to serious physical and mental health disorders including anxiety and depression.  Sources of job stress include but are not limited to:


  • Poor communication
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Role ambiguity
  • Lack of clear instructions
  • Limited input in decision making
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Job insecurity
  • Poor pay
  • Underemployment
  • Lack of opportunities for growth and development
  • Isolated working conditions
  • Shift work
  • Inflexible schedules
  • Unpredictable work hours
  • Underutilisation of skills
  • Low value


Mental health problems contribute to turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism and lost productivity.  Each day, over 500,000 Canadians are absent from work because of their mental health.   ⅓ of disability claims in Canada are related to mental illness-this is growing.  Mental health disability claims represent 70% of the total cost of disability claims.

There are numerous steps that workplaces can take to protect and promote the psychological health and safety of their workers. The benefits of investing in employee mental health and well-being include being better able to recruit and retain talent, improved employee engagement, enhanced productivity, increased creativity and innovation, higher profit levels, and reduction of key workplace issues including risk of conflict, grievances, turnover, disability, injury, absenteeism and performance or morale problems.



Karen Vanscoy, RN, BScN operates Mental Health Solutions and is a CMHA certified Psychological Health and Safety Advisor with more than 25 years of mental health education and experience.  Call 905-969-3999, email Karen at or visit to book a free consultation to discuss how Karen can assist your organization to develop, promote and sustain the psychological health of your workplace.


Mental health and work: Impact, issues and good practices.  2000. Harnois, G. & Gabriel, P. WHO: Geneva.

Mental health in the workplace.  2018. Government of Canada.

Workplace. 2018. Mental Health Commission of Canada.



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