Associations between psychological distress, workplace accidents, workplace failures and workplace successes

  • Michael F. Hilton
  • Harvey A. Whiteford
Original Article



This study investigates associations between psychological distress and workplace accidents, workplace failures and workplace successes.


The Health and Work Performance Questionnaire (HPQ) was distributed to employees of 58 large employers. A total of 60,556 full-time employees were eligible for analysis. The HPQ probed whether the respondent had, in the past 30-days, a workplace accident, success or failure (“yes” or “no”). Psychological distress was quantified using the Kessler 6 (K6) scale and categorised into low, moderate and high psychological distress. Three binomial logistic regressions were performed with the dependent variables being workplace accident, success or failure. Covariates in the models were K6 category, gender, age, marital status, education level, job category, physical health and employment sector.


Accounting for all other variables, moderate and high psychological distress significantly (P < 0.0001) increased the odds ratio (OR) for a workplace accident to 1.4 for both levels of distress. Moderate and high psychological distress significantly (P < 0.0001) increased the OR (OR = 2.3 and 2.6, respectively) for a workplace failure and significantly (P < 0.0001) decreased the OR for a workplace success (OR = 0.8 and 0.7, respectively).


Moderate and high psychological distress increase the OR’s for workplace accidents work failures and decrease the OR of workplace successes at similar levels. As the prevalence of moderate psychological distress is approximately double that of high psychological distress moderate distress consequentially has a greater workplace impact.


Occupational accidents Psychological stress Mental health Task performance and analysis 



The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Professor Ronald Kessler and Dr Philip Wang in the design of the study protocol and Ms Cathy Cleary and Dr Judith Sheridan for their assistance in data collection. This work was financially supported by (1) the Department of Health and Ageing, Mental Health Strategy Branch, Australian Government, Canberra, ACT. (2) beyondblue: the national depression initiative, Melbourne, VIC, Australia (3) The Australian Rotary Health Research Fund, Parramatta, NSW, Australia.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Population HealthUniversity of QueenslandHerstonA ustralia
  2. 2.Queensland Centre for Mental Health ResearchSumner Park, BCAustralia

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