University Of Tasmania
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Prevalence and correlates of psychological distress in a large and diverse public sector workforce: Baseline results from Partnering Healthy@Work

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posted on 2023-05-18, 00:40 authored by Jarman, L, Angela MartinAngela Martin, Alison VennAlison Venn, Petr OtahalPetr Otahal, Taylor, R, Teale, B, Kristy Sanderson
Background: Depressive and anxiety disorders are common among working adults and costly to employers and individuals. Mental health screening is often an important initial strategy, but the resultant data are often of unknown representativeness and difficult to interpret. In a public sector workforce, this study used a brief screener for depression/anxiety to: a) compare prevalence of high psychological distress obtained from a researcher survey with an employer survey and population norms and b) verify whether expected correlates were observed in a screening setting. Methods. Participants were public servants working for an Australian state government. High psychological distress (Kessler-10 ≥22) stratified by age and sex was compared for a random weighted sample researcher survey (n = 3406) and an anonymous volunteer employer survey (n = 7715). Prevalence ratios (PR) were estimated from log binomial regression. Results: Referencing the researcher survey, prevalence of high psychological distress was greater by age and sex in the employer survey but was only dependably higher for men when compared with population norms. Modelling suggested this may be due to work stress (effort-reward imbalance) (PR = 3.19, 95% CI 1.45-7.01) and casual/fixed-term employment (PR 2.64, 95% CI 1.26-5.56). Conclusions: Depression and anxiety screening using typical employer survey methods could overestimate prevalence but expected correlates are observed in a screening setting. Guidance for employers on screening and interpretation should be provided to encourage engagement with mental health prevention and treatment programs in the workplace. © 2014 Jarman et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Publication title

BMC Public Health



Article number









Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Biomed Central Ltd

Place of publication

Middlesex House, 34-42 Cleveland St, London, England, W1T 4Lb

Rights statement

Copyright 2014 The Authors-this article has been distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 2.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Mental health

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