Careers That Cause Depression and Burnout

We spend many hours at our jobs, often well over 40 hours a week. Naturally, our careers will have a major impact on our mental health. A person who loves their line of work, feels fairly compensated and appreciated, and is able to get plenty of rest, recreation, and healthy food is likely to have a healthy mental attitude and be able to handle the various stressors that are a part of our careers and our lives.

However, long and erratic work hours, low pay, lack of respect from the general public, and the stress of responsibility for other people’s lives, health, or welfare can eat away at mental health and lead to depression. According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), some careers, by their nature, can be damaging to mental health.

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Work-related depression for the general public is 7% in any given year, while 13% of the unemployed are depressed. While any career seems better for mental health than being unemployed, workers in certain jobs have higher depression rates than average. Some of these jobs are considered rewarding by those that perform them, but at the same time, factors of low pay, little respect, undesirable work hours, and too much responsibility can lead to depression. The careers with the highest depression rates are:

  • Caregivers (nursing home, childcare) – 10%
  • Food service – 10%
  • Social workers – 9.6%
  • Healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, technicians) – 9.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, sports, media, writers – 9.1%
  • Teachers – 8.7%
  • Office workers – 8.1%

In addition, doctors and dentists have the highest suicide rate by occupation.

Careers with a high level of burnout
Burnout occurs when you feel mentally, physically, or emotionally exhausted from your work. While this is not to the level of depression, it is still a mental health concern. The careers with the highest burnout rates, not surprisingly, closely mirror those with the highest depression rates.

  • Doctors (50% burnout rate in any given year, per the AMA)
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Teachers
  • School principals
  • Attorneys
  • Police officers
  • Accountants
  • Fast food workers
  • Retail personnel

Clearly, many of these careers are crucial and we need good people in them. But it’s important to enter them with an awareness of the danger of burnout or depression. If you tend toward depression and anxiety, it might be best, if possible to try find something else less stressful. For your consideration, the happiest workers are architects, engineers, and surveyors.

It’s important to enter a field for the right reason, especially those fields in which you are responsible for people’s lives. They will be the most stressful. And remember to make time for healthy food, recreation, socializing, and plenty of sleep. These activities will help you avoid the burnout and depression that can happen in any career. Reach out to me if you need help reordering your thoughts or your lifestyle to overcome burnout, anxiety, or depression.

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