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Occupational stress and depression in Korean employees

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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Jung Jin Cho.




Items of Korean occupational stress scale


Item No.


Difficult physical environment


My workplace is clean and comfortable


I am exposed to dangerous work and possibility of high risk of accidents


I have to work for a long time taking uncomfortable posture

High job demand


Due to many things to do, I always feel time pressure


I am asked to do another work before finishing the work I am doing


My job has become increasingly overloading


I feel myself responsible for coworkers and subordinates


My work requires a long lasting concentration


Sufficient rest is provided during working hours


I cannot do well at both work and home


I have to do various jobs simultaneously

Insufficient job control


My work requires creativity


Work-related things (i.e., work schedule, workload, meeting time, etc.) tend to change without notice


My work requires a high level of skill or knowledge


I can make my own decision in my job and give influence over the work


I can control my work pace and time schedule

Interpersonal conflict


My supervisor is helpful in getting the job done


My coworker is helpful in getting the job done


I have someone who understands my difficulties at work.


I have a co-worker(s) to share my problems at work

Job insecurity


I can easily get a new job when I quit my job


I can easily find a new job equal to the condition of the current job


My future is uncertain because the current situation of my company is unstable


I can hardly be fired or unemployed


It is possible to lose my job within 2 years


Undesirable changes (i.e., downsizing) will come to my job

Organizational injustice


The organizational policy of my company is fair and reasonable


My company provides me with sufficient organizational supports


Departments cooperate each other without conflicts


All company members cooperate in harmony for the company


I have opportunities and channels to talk about my ideas


I expect my carrier development and promotion to progress as I plan


My current status is appropriate for my education and career

Lack of reward


My job is under my expectation


My salary is not appropriate to my effort and work performance


I acquire respect and confidence from my company


I am interested in my job


I believe that I will be given more rewards from my company if I work hard


I am provided with opportunity of developing my capacity

Discomfort in occupational climate


Dining out after work makes me uncomfortable


I am asked to do my work with irrational principle or inconsistency


My company climate is authoritative and hierarchical


I take disadvantages since I am woman (man)

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Cho, J.J., Kim, J.Y., Chang, S.J. et al. Occupational stress and depression in Korean employees. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 82, 47–57 (2008).

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