Is Your Job Literally Depressing You?

Although everyone can find something to hate about her job, it's just got to be the case that some jobs are more depressing than others – but the actual losers may surprise you. Researchers led by the department of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati examined insurance claims from workers in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas for a time period between 2002 and 2005. When the dust had recently settled on the analysis, they discovered – literally – which are the most depressing jobs in America, starting with public transit.

Public transit workers, including bus drivers, suffered from depression at a rate of 16.2 percent (not too surprising, for anyone who has spent time riding a bus and engaging with other riders...). But real estate employees aren't much behind, at 15.7 percent, which I wouldn't have expected given their flexible schedules and glamorous appearances. For people who claim to be in their field for the love of it and not for money, social workers also get a raw deal, with a 14.6 percent depression rate.

Manufacturing and personal services both make the top 10 list, probably due to the excessively repetitive nature of both factory work and beauty salon work. These were followed up by legal services, environmental quality and housing work, and membership organizations (can't imagine it's very uplifting to keep begging people for money for your favorite cause). Rounding out the list are security and commodity brokerage and printing and publishing: two fields that strike me as "dream jobs" gone unfortunately awry in reality. Check out more details from the study here. Workers in manual labor, like construction, actually fare the best when it comes to depression rates.

This study had some limitations, notably that it excluded workers who would not have been making insurance claims for their health care (or receiving health care at all). The researchers were able to adjust for the study population's age, gender, and employee share of health care costs (so people whose employers were generous with insurance coverage were not over-represented). However, since increasingly many Americans work part-time or on a freelance basis and these positions typically do not offer health benefits, it appears that this group would not have been included at all. Part-time and freelance work varies from skilled (graphic design, writing) to unskilled (fast food), and it seems like the latter would be more depressing than the former, but it's hard to say for sure.

What do these depressing jobs have in common? They were jobs which "require frequent or difficult interactions with the public or clients, and have high levels of stress and low levels of physical activity" – sedentary jobs whose do-ers have significant responsibility but little autonomy. So, even if your job didn't top the depressing list, it may still very well be the cause of your psychological woes.

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