A systematic review on the effect of work-related stressors on mental health of young workers

  • P. C. F. LawEmail author
  • L. S. Too
  • P. Butterworth
  • K. Witt
  • N. Reavley
  • A. J. Milner
Original Article



There is no review on the effect of work-related stressors on mental health of young workers. We systematically reviewed epidemiological evidence on this relationship.


The review searched eight databases: Embase, PubMed, Web of Science, Cinahl, Cochrane Library, Informit, PsycINFO, and Scopus from their respective start dates until May 2017. Studies that have examined a mental health outcome in relation to a work-related stressor as exposure in young workers were included. The review was reported based on the PRISMA statement.


Three cross-sectional studies and six longitudinal cohort studies were included. Cross-sectional evidence showed that adverse work conditions including working overtime, job boredom, low skill variety, low autonomy, high job insecurity, and lack of reward were associated with poor mental health of young workers. Longitudinal evidence showed that high job demands, low job control, effort-reward imbalance, and low work support (men only) were associated with poor mental health. There was evidence on the contemporaneous relationship between two or more adverse work conditions and poor mental health.


Although more research (particularly high-quality longitudinal studies) is warranted in this area, our review indicates that work-related stressors have a negative impact on the mental health of young workers. The current review suggests that workplace interventions and policy are required to improve the quality of work for young workers.


Work-related stressors Mental health Young people 



We dedicate this paper to the memory of our last author and valued colleague, Associate Professor Allison Milner, who sadly passed away in August 2019 in the submission stage of this manuscript.

Author contributions

AM contributed to the study conception and design. Data collection and extraction were performed by PCFL. Extracted data were cross-checked by LST and AM. Data interpretation was performed by PCFL with LST and PB. The first draft of the manuscript was written by PCFL and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This study was funded by VicHealth.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. C. F. Law
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. S. Too
    • 2
  • P. Butterworth
    • 2
  • K. Witt
    • 3
  • N. Reavley
    • 2
  • A. J. Milner
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Turning Point, Eastern Health Clinical SchoolMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Population Health Research, School of Health and Social DevelopmentDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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