Occupational stress and depression in Korean employees

  • Jung Jin ChoEmail author
  • Ji Yong Kim
  • Sei Jin Chang
  • Nancy Fiedler
  • Sang Baek Koh
  • Benjamin F. Crabtree
  • Dong Mug Kang
  • Yong Kyu Kim
  • Young Ho Choi
Original Article



The purpose of this study is to analyze what aspects of occupational stress predict depression among Korean workers, and determine which components of occupational stress or job characteristics is more strongly associated with depression.


In this cross-sectional study, a total of 8,522 workers (21–65 years of age) from a nationwide sample were recruited. A self-administered questionnaire was used to assess socio-demographics, job characteristics, depressive symptoms measured by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and occupational stress assessed by the Korean occupational stress scale (KOSS).


Multivariate analyses show that inadequate social support (OR = 1.58, 95% CI = 1.52, 1.66) and discomfort in occupational climate (OR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.18, 1.32) were more important risk factors for depression than organizational injustice, job demand and job control. Compared to the ‘business activities’ industries, ‘recreational, cultural and sporting activities’ (OR = 3.45, 95% CI = 1.80, 6.58), ‘hotel and restaurants’ (OR = 3.34, 95% CI = 1.92, 5.80), ‘real estate and renting and leasing’ (OR = 2.24, 95% CI = 1.13, 4.44), ‘wholesale and retail’ (OR = 1.85, 95% CI = 1.28, 2.67), ‘transportation’ (OR = 1.85, 95% CI = 1.11, 3.07), and ‘financial institute and insurance’ (OR = 1.60, 95% CI = 1.04, 2.48) industries had significantly greater risk of depression after controlling for gender, age, marital status, duration of employment and all subscale of KOSS.


The finding that inadequate social support and discomfort in occupational climate is a better predictor of depressive symptoms than organizational injustice in Korea, indicates that the newly developed KOSS has cultural relevance for assessing occupational stress in Korea. Future studies need to understand factors such as “emotional labor” within certain industries where increased risk for depression is observed.


Depression Occupational stress Korean occupational stress scale (KOSS) Emotional labor 



This research was supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute (2005). We thank to co-investigator of this project and the workers who responded our survey.

Conflict of interest statement



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jung Jin Cho
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ji Yong Kim
    • 2
  • Sei Jin Chang
    • 3
  • Nancy Fiedler
    • 4
  • Sang Baek Koh
    • 3
  • Benjamin F. Crabtree
    • 5
  • Dong Mug Kang
    • 6
  • Yong Kyu Kim
    • 7
  • Young Ho Choi
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineHallym University College of Medicine, Hallym University Sacred Heart HospitalAnyang-siSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of Family MedicineDongguk University College of MedicineSeoulSouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of Preventive Medicine and Institute of Occupational Medicine, Wonju College of MedicineYonsei UniversityWonjuSouth Korea
  4. 4.Department of Environmental and Occupational MedicineUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolNew BrunswickUSA
  5. 5.Research Division, Department of Family MedicineUniversity of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolNew BrunswickUSA
  6. 6.Department of Preventive and Occupational MedicinePusan University School of MedicinePusanSouth Korea
  7. 7.Department of Preventive Medicine and Industrial Medical CenterThe Catholic University College of MedicineSeoulSouth Korea
  8. 8.Department of Family MedicineHallym University College of Medicine, Chuncheon Sacred Heart HospitalChuncheonSouth Korea

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