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Journal of Environmental and Public Health
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 515874, 21 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/515874
Review Article

A Synthesis of the Evidence for Managing Stress at Work: A Review of the Reviews Reporting on Anxiety, Depression, and Absenteeism

Centre for Psychiatry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London E14NS, UK

Received 19 May 2011; Revised 3 August 2011; Accepted 5 August 2011

Academic Editor: David Vlahov

Copyright © 2012 Kamaldeep S. Bhui et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Background. Psychosocial stressors in the workplace are a cause of anxiety and depressive illnesses, suicide and family disruption. Methods. The present review synthesizes the evidence from existing systematic reviews published between 1990 and July 2011. We assessed the effectiveness of individual, organisational and mixed interventions on two outcomes: mental health and absenteeism. Results. In total, 23 systematic reviews included 499 primary studies; there were 11 meta-analyses and 12 narrative reviews. Meta-analytic studies found a greater effect size of individual interventions on individual outcomes. Organisational interventions showed mixed evidence of benefit. Organisational programmes for physical activity showed a reduction in absenteeism. The findings from the meta-analytic reviews were consistent with the findings from the narrative reviews. Specifically, cognitive-behavioural programmes produced larger effects at the individual level compared with other interventions. Some interventions appeared to lead to deterioration in mental health and absenteeism outcomes.Gaps in the literature include studies of organisational outcomes like absenteeism, the influence of specific occupations and size of organisations, and studies of the comparative effectiveness of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Conclusions. Individual interventions (like CBT) improve individuals’ mental health. Physical activity as an organisational intervention reduces absenteeism. Research needs to target gaps in the evidence.