The one factor causing depression and anxiety in the workplace
Author Johann Hari says our jobs may be at the root of widespread depression and anxiety.
Johann Hari is the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream, which is being adapted into a feature film. He was twice named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International UK. He has written for many of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Le Monde, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, the Nation, Slate, El Mundo, and the Sydney Morning Herald. He was a lead op-ed columnist for the Independent, one of Britain’s leading newspapers, for nine years. He is a regular panelist on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. His TED talk, “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong,” has more than 20 million views.
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.
As Josh put it to me, there’s no reason why any business should be run in this top down, depressogenic, humiliating way, right. The modern corporation is a very recent invention.
Think about how many people you know who feel terrible today if they were going into work tomorrow to a workplace that they controlled with their colleagues. If there had to be a boss, they elected the boss and the boss was accountable to them. Where they chose the priorities for their workplace. A lot of people would feel very differently. Now that is an antidepressant, right. Chemical antidepressants should absolutely remain on the menu. They give some relief to some people. That’s valuable. But we need to look for antidepressants that deal with the reasons why we’re depressed. So I was able to identify nine causes of depression and anxiety and seven antidepressants like this which are actually about dealing with the reasons why we feel this way, and not just blunting the symptoms.
Author Johann Hari says work may be at the root of widespread depression and anxiety. There is one key factor that makes many jobs cause stress. Addressing it could lead to re-organizing many companies but much happier workers.
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While not the first such minister, the loneliness epidemic in Japan will make this one the hardest working.
- The Japanese government has appointed a Minister of Loneliness to implement policies designed to fight isolation and lower suicide rates.
- They are the second country, after the U.K., to dedicate a cabinet member to the task.
- While Japan is famous for how its loneliness epidemic manifests, it isn't alone in having one.
The Ministry of Loneliness<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/I5FIohjZT8o" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p><a href="https://www.jimin.jp/english/profile/members/114749.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tetsushi Sakamoto</a>, already in the government as the minister in charge of raising Japan's low birthrate and revitalizing regional economies, was appointed this <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/national/japan-tackles-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">month</a> to the additional role. He has already announced plans for an emergency national forum to discuss the issue and share the testimony of lonely <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/12/national/loneliness-isolation-minister/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">individuals</a>.</p><p>Given the complexity of the problem, the minister will primarily oversee the coordination of efforts between different <a href="https://www.insider.com/japan-minister-of-loneliness-suicides-rise-pandemic-2021-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ministries</a> that hope to address the issue alongside a task <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/national/japan-tackles-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">force</a>. He steps into his role not a moment too soon. The loneliness epidemic in Japan is uniquely well known around the world.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Hikikomori</em></a><em>,</em> often translated as "acute social withdrawal," is the phenomenon of people completely withdrawing from society for months or years at a time and living as modern-day hermits. While cases exist in many <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00247/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries</a>, the problem is better known and more prevalent in Japan. Estimates vary, but some suggest that one million Japanese live like this and that 1.5 million more are at <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/article/japan-hikikomori-isolation-society" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">risk</a> of developing the condition. Individuals practicing this hermitage often express contentment with their isolation at first before encountering severe symptoms of loneliness and <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200110155241.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">distress</a>.</p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodokushi" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Kodokushi</em></a>, the phenomenon of the elderly dying alone and remaining undiscovered for some time due to their isolation, is also a widespread issue in Japan that has attracted national attention for decades.</p><p>These are just the most shocking elements of the loneliness crisis. As we've discussed before, loneliness can cause health issues akin to <a href="https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/americas-loneliness-epidemic-is-more-lethal-than-smoking-heres-what-you-can-do-to-combat-isolation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">smoking</a>. A lack of interaction within a community can cause social <a href="https://bigthink.com/in-their-own-words/how-religious-neighbors-are-better-neighbors" target="_self">problems</a>. It is even associated with changes in the <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/loneliness-brain" target="_self">brain</a>. While there is nothing wrong with wanting a little time to yourself, the inability to get the socialization that many people need is a real problem with real <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-loneliness-hunger" target="_self">consequences</a>.</p>
The virus that broke the camel's back<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Hp-L844-5k8" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> A global loneliness pandemic existed before COVID-19, and the two working in tandem has been catastrophic. </p><p>Japanese society has always placed a value on solitude, often associating it with self-reliance, which makes dealing with the problem of excessive solitude more difficult. Before the pandemic, 16.1 percent of Japanese seniors reported having nobody to turn to in a time of need, the highest rate of any nation <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/21/national/japan-tackles-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">considered</a>. Seventeen percent of Japanese men surveyed in 2005 said that they "rarely or never spend time with friends, colleagues, or others in social groups." This was three times the average rate of other <a href="http://www.oecd.org/sdd/37964677.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countries</a>. </p><p>American individualism also creates a fertile environment for isolation to grow. About a month before the pandemic started, nearly<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/01/23/798676465/most-americans-are-lonely-and-our-workplace-culture-may-not-be-helping" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> 3 in 5</a> Americans reported being lonely in a <a href="https://www.cigna.com/about-us/newsroom/studies-and-reports/combatting-loneliness/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> issued by Cigna. This is a slight increase over previous studies, which had been pointing in the same direction for years. </p><p>In the United Kingdom, the problem prompted the creation of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The commission's <a href="https://www.ageuk.org.uk/globalassets/age-uk/documents/reports-and-publications/reports-and-briefings/active-communities/rb_dec17_jocox_commission_finalreport.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">final report </a>paints a stark picture of the U.K.'s situation in 2017, with millions of people from all parts of British society reporting feeling regular loneliness at a tremendous cost to personal health, society, and the economy.</p><p>The report called for a lead minister to address the problem at the national level, incorporating government action with the insights provided by volunteer organizations, businesses, the NHS, and other organizations on the crisis's front lines. Her Majesty's Government acted on the report and appointed the first Minister for Loneliness in <a href="https://time.com/5248016/tracey-crouch-uk-loneliness-minister/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2018</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracey_Crouch" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tracey Crouch</a>, and dedicated millions of pounds to battling the problem. </p><p>The distancing procedures necessitated by the COVID-19 epidemic saved many lives but exacerbated an existing problem of loneliness in many parts of the world. While the issue had received attention before, Japan's steps to address the situation suggest that people are now willing to treat it with the seriousness it deserves.</p><p>--</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. The suicide prevention hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.</em></p>
MIT professor Azra Akšamija creates works of cultural resilience in the face of social conflict.
Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Do they really need the human touch?
- In Pinduoduo's Smart Agriculture Competition, four technology teams competed with traditional farmers over four months to grow strawberries.
- Data analysis, intelligent sensors and greenhouse automation helped the scientists win.
- Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as AI are forecast to deliver huge productivity gains – but need the right governance, according to the Global Technology Governance Report 2021.
Pinduoduo<h3>Growing potential</h3><p>Numerous studies show the potential for Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies like AI to boost economic growth and productivity.</p><p>By 2035, labour productivity in developed countries could rise by 40% due to the influence of AI, according to<a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/ai-productivity-automation-artificial-intelligence-countries/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> analysis from Accenture and Frontier Economics</a>.</p><p>Sweden, the US and Japan are expected to see the highest productivity increases.</p>