NISRA reports on the mental health status of the Northern Ireland population in employment

On 29 September 2021, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), part of ADR Northern Ireland (ADR NI), published a research report on the mental health status of the Northern Ireland population in employment. This report focusses on differences between occupations and industries of employment.

What we did

The analysis was based on a large sample (28%) of the population in employment from the 2011 Northern Ireland Census, linked to prescription data (202,000 records). It looked at the self-reporting of an emotional, psychological or mental health condition, as reported in the 2011 Census. It also analysed the long-term use of prescriptions for depression and anxiety based on data from the Enhanced Prescribing Database.

What we found

Of the Northern Ireland population in employment, 8.6% had received prescription drugs related to anxiety and depression in each year 2010 to 2012. This is nearly three times the proportion of people self‑reporting an emotional, psychological or mental health condition according to the 2011 Census (3.1%). Personal service occupations had the highest proportion prescribed antidepressants, hypnotics or anti-anxiety drugs (12.9%). The lowest proportion (5.5%) was found in skilled trades occupations. The highest proportion (4.3%) of people in employment self-reporting an emotional, psychological or mental health condition were found in sales and customer services occupations, and elementary occupations (occupations with mostly routine tasks requiring brief experience-related training). The lowest proportion (2.0%) was found in professional occupations.

Significant variations in the prevalence of poor mental health between different occupations and/or industries persist after accounting for socio-economic factors, such as age, sex and marital status. The highest prevalence of poor mental health was found in sales and customer services occupations. Those working in these occupations were 55% more likely to have a self‑reported emotional, psychological or mental health condition, and 29% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants, hypnotics or anti-anxiety drugs compared to professional occupations.

Impact

This analysis has been led by NISRA researchers, part of ADR Northern Ireland (ADR NI). Findings were presented at an online event to the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for the Economy, which initiated this piece of research. HSENI’s approach to tackling work-related stress and mental well-being is to provide advice, guidance and practical help towards eliminating, reducing and controlling stress in the workplace. The research was very positively received by them and the findings could help to tailor these functions in specific industries.  

Find out more in the full report.

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